Judge in Etan Patz case: Sufficient evidence to prosecute Pedro Hernandez for murder
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A state judge ruled on Wednesday that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Pedro Hernandez for murder in the notorious 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Maxwell Wiley rejected a claim that the case was fatally flawed because it was completely based on an uncorroborated confession last year by Hernandez, 52, a New Jersey man who suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Wiley said the law requires corroboration that the crime was committed, but said his review of grand jury minutes indicated that prosecutors met that burden. He did not specify whether there was any corroboration other than Patz's disappearance for 33 years.
"The people presented sufficient corroboration and . . . the grand jury heard any necessary exculpatory evidence," Wiley wrote.
Hernandez worked at a bodega near Patz's last known location in 1979. Police said he confessed to killing Patz and disposing of the body during a lengthy police interrogation last year after relatives disclosed that he had spoken about being involved in the case. His lawyer said it was a fantasy and a false confession.
The lawyer, Harvey Fishbein, who has served notice he plans to offer psychiatric testimony to show the confession was invented, said a dismissal would have been "highly unusual."Patz disappeared May 25, 1979 while walking alone for the first time to a school bus stop.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was created by Congress in 1984, and officially designated that year by President Ronald Reagan as the nation's clearinghouse for information on missing children.
Hernandez's next court date is July 31. A trial date has not been set.