Judge says confession admissible in Etan Patz case
NEW YORK (CNN) — A jury will be allowed to consider a confession by a suspect with a low IQ who is accused of killing a 6-year-old boy more than three decades ago, a judge ruled Monday.
In May 2012, Pedro Hernandez told police that he choked Etan Patz to death in New York City in 1979, police say.
Hernandez’s attorney, Harvey Fishbein, argued that his client falsely confessed and the statements were not reliable because Hernandez had been repeatedly diagnosed with schizophrenia and has an “IQ in the borderline-to-mild mental retardation range.”
The statements in question were made during three events across two days in May 2012: a 7½-hour interrogation, a 20-minute videotape of the statement following the interrogation, and a statement made at the district attorney’s office the next morning, Fishbein said.
“I think anyone who sees these confessions will understand that when the police were finished, Mr. Hernandez believed he had killed Etan Patz. But that doesn’t mean he actually did and that’s the whole point of this case,” Fishbein told CNN affiliate NY1.
But Judge Maxwell Wiley ruled Monday that the confession was admissible, writing that Hernandez’s waiver of Miranda rights was “knowing and intelligent,” according to court documents.
Wiley cited reports of two forensic psychology experts who met with Hernandez and determined he was “in fact capable of knowingly waiving his rights,” the decision said.
The two experts agreed that “although the defendant has a very low IQ, that alone does not necessarily prevent a person from understanding Miranda warnings and making a knowing and intelligent waiver of his rights,” court documents said.
Hernandez admitted to luring Etan, who was en route to a school bus stop, into the basement of a bodega where he worked as a stock clerk and killing him, according to police. The boy’s body was put in a garbage bag and thrown away, Hernandez allegedly told authorities. The remains were never found.
The Patz case garnered national attention after the boy went missing, and his picture was plastered on thousands of milk cartons around the country.
Fishbein told CNN that although the jury will be able to consider the confession, it is now up to them to decide if it is truly reliable or not.
In November 2012, a grand jury indicted Hernandez on second-degree murder and kidnapping charges. He pleaded not guilty in court the following month.
The trial is set to begin January 5, Fishbein said.