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In Etan Patz retrial, attorneys question potential jurors

Pedro Hernandez is seen on Nov. 15, 2012.

Pedro Hernandez is seen on Nov. 15, 2012. Photo Credit: Pool Photo/Steven Hirsch

Public questioning of prospective jurors began Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court for the upcoming retrial of Pedro Hernandez, the man charged with kidnapping and murder in the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz.

More than 150 potential jurors, screened over several weeks for their ability to serve in a trial expected to last months, reported for initial questioning by Justice Maxwell Wiley. A group of 16 preliminarily seated in the jury box will be questioned Thursday by lawyers.

The first trial of Hernandez, 53, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, a former bodega worker in Patz’s SoHo neighborhood, ended in a deadlocked jury last year. He confessed to the long-unsolved crime, but his defense contends it was a delusion caused by a mental disorder.

The long and public history of the case was on display during the initial questioning Wednesday. “He confessed,” one prospective juror said. “Why not sentence him?”

Wiley said he expects selection of a final jury to continue through next week.

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