Jurors in the Etan Patz murder trial finished their 17th day of deliberations Thursday the same way they finished the past 16 -- without a verdict -- after another tense seven hours that ended with the judge giving Snickers bars to the prosecutor and defense lawyer.
Justice Maxwell Wiley handed out the candy, used in humorous TV ads to calm characters going berserk from hunger, in an apparent effort to relieve stress during deliberations that most court observers say are becoming historically long for New York City.
"I have never experienced a jury deliberation this long, nor have I ever heard of one," said Harvey Fishbein, the lawyer for defendant Pedro Hernandez. Court officials and prosecutors have also been unable to identify one that has gone on longer.
Etan, 6, vanished on his way to a school bus in SoHo in 1979. Hernandez, 54, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, is accused of strangling the boy in the basement of a neighborhood bodega on the basis of a now-disputed 2012 confession. The 10-week trial was hotly contested, with the defense offering psychiatric experts to suggest that Hernandez's confession may have been the product of a mental disorder, and also attempting to cast suspicion on a convicted pedophile as the real culprit.
Jurors have twice sent out notes indicating they were deadlocked, and Wiley has told them to keep trying to reach consensus. The last deadlock was reported in a note Tuesday.
Although deliberations in the case are testing the patience of participants, there is plenty of precedent nationally. Deliberations in a 2005 retrial of three Oakland, California, police officers on abuse charges, for example, lasted six weeks, according to published reports. Deliberations in the original trial, in 2003, lasted 55 days.
The jury is scheduled to resume work Friday.