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Jury contamination hearing asked by man convicted in Etan Patz case

A Manhattan jury on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017

A Manhattan jury on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017 convicted ex-bodega clerk Pedro Hernandez of murder and kidnapping in 6-year-old Etan Patz' 1979 disappearance. Hernandez is shown during an appearance in Manhattan criminal court on Nov. 15, 2012. Credit: AP / Louis Lanzano

The lawyer for the man convicted last week of murdering Etan Patz said Wednesday he will ask for a hearing to determine if the jury was contaminated by improperly learning that jurors from a previous trial were attending in support of Patz’s family.

Harvey Fishbein, the lawyer for Pedro Hernandez, said the step was triggered by reports in Newsday and DNAInfo that after the verdict juror Michael Castellon, in an interview outside Manhattan Supreme Court, said a court officer told jurors members of the previous panel were coming.

“We’ve started our own investigation,” Fishbein said.

Six-year-old Etan disappeared on his way to catch a school bus in SoHo in 1979. A jury in 2015 deadlocked 11-1 for conviction of Hernandez, 55, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, who worked at a bodega adjacent to the SoHo bus stop and gave police a disputed confession.

Several of the jurors from the first trial who favored conviction began advising prosecutors, and attended the retrial, regularly sitting with Etan’s father, Stan Patz. Judge Maxwell Wiley ruled the second jury was not to be told about the previous trial.

Castellon asked Newsday to not publish what he said about learning of the previous jury, and then quickly left the court before he could respond to follow-up questions. Newsday has been unable to reach other jurors for comment.

Hernandez’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 28.

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