Yesterday, a hearing was held for the retrial of Pedro Hernandez, who is accused of killing six-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. While prosecutors are moving forward with a new trial, many jurors from the last one are still angry that the previous, grueling trial ended in mistrial because one juror believed that Hernandez was innocent. The forewoman said, "There is going to be a retrial because of one individual with a huge ego and a small heart."
Etan's disappearance while walking in Soho prompted a nationwide movement to find missing children. His body was never found, and another man, Jose Ramos, a convicted pedophile (who dated Etan's babysitter), was a longtime suspect. Ramos was even found guilty of Etan's death in a 2004 civil case.
In 2012, the NYPD reopened the case and got a tip about Hernandez, a mentally ill man who apparently confessed to relatives and fellow church members to strangling Etan and putting his body in a garbage bag when he was 18 years old. However, Hernandez's lawyers contended that his confession to police occurred after being interrogated for over six hours (he tried to leave the interrogation a few times, but cops convinced him to stay), and, given his schizophrenia and other mental issues, that he was coerced into confessing.
After the mistrial, the holdout juror, Adam Sirois, told reporters about his decision to vote not guilty, "For me his confession was very bizarre; no matter how many times it happened it got more and more bizarre. And I felt like mental health issues were a huge part of this case." Sirois added, "First of all, false confessions do exist . . . That’s one thing we had to consider. The second factor was both mental-health witnesses for the defense and the prosecution [described] a series of factors that would make someone vulnerable to say a false confession... you’d have to believe that the mental-health issues are strong enough to allow someone like Pedro to make this false confession, and I really felt that’s what happened with Mr. Hernandez."
Judge Maxwell Wiley said that jury selection for the new trial will begin at the end of the year. Jennifer O'Connor and other jurors were present at the hearing; O'Connor said, "We are very frustrated and disheartened still — it still resonates with us to this day — which is why we’re here supporting the new [prosecutor] and his team. We really wanted to refocus our energies into something positive, turn it back to Etan, back to the Patz family." And she said of Sirois, "I think he had every opportunity in the room to let reason win out and he did not let it happen."
Sirois, who also showed up, claimed he had no idea the other jurors would be there and said he was still invested in the case. "I made my decision based on the evidence. I feel very comfortable with how I voted," Sirois told reporters. "I would say they're asking for more publicity than I am."