NEW YORK (JTA) — After nearly three weeks of deliberations, the jury in the Etan Patz trial said it was unable to reach a verdict.
On Tuesday, as he did six days earlier, the judge ordered the jury to continue deliberating the fate of Pedro Hernandez, 54, a disabled factory worker who confessed in 2012 to killing the 6-year-old Etan.
The jury has been unable to come up with a unanimous decision since it started deliberating on April 15.
“I’d like you to keep deliberating,” Justice Maxwell Wiley of the New York State Supreme Court told the jurors. “I am not asking any of you to violate your conscience or abandon your best judgment.”
Lawyers for Hernandez moved for a mistrial, arguing that as the jury had clearly reached an impasse, the judge’s instruction to keep trying amounted to coercion. The defense claims that the confession was the result of Hernandez’s mental incapacities exacerbated by several hours of police questioning.
Etan, who was Jewish, went missing on May 25, 1979, in the SoHo area of New York City after walking to a bus stop by himself for the first time. He was among the first missing children to have his face pictured on a milk carton. His body was never found.
Jose Ramos, 68, a convicted pedophile who served a 20-year prison sentence for molesting a young boy, was declared responsible for Etan’s death in a 2004 civil case.