Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
NewsNew York

Testimony concludes on Pedro Hernandez's confession in Etan Patz slaying

Pedro Hernandez, right, appears in Manhattan criminal court

Pedro Hernandez, right, appears in Manhattan criminal court with his attorney Harvey Fishbein on Nov. 15, 2012. Credit: AP

A prosecution expert said Pedro Hernandez, the former bodega worker accused of strangling 6-year-old Etan Patz, was "not the brightest person" but disputed claims that he is intellectually disabled as testimony in hearings on Hernandez's confessions ended Tuesday.

Psychologist Michael Sweda testified that although Hernandez scored 67 on some IQ tests -- below the benchmark of 70 for intellectual disability, or retardation -- he believed his actual IQ was between 70 and 80, and called his performance on tests determining comprehension of his Miranda rights "unremarkable."

Hernandez, 53, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, was charged -- on the basis of his 2012 confessions -- with the notorious 1979 abduction of Patz while the child waited for a school bus in SoHo. The defense says Hernandez suffers from mental disorders and that the NYPD manipulated him into confessing to an imagined crime.

Four weeks of hearings before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley on whether the confessions should be admitted at trial have provided a window into the evidence jurors may have to sort through -- including tapes in which Hernandez describes a horrible crime but can't explain why he did it or what he felt.

Wiley said he will meet with lawyers later this week and rule after receiving written arguments on Oct. 29. If he allows the statements to be admitted, Hernandez's trial is set for Jan. 5.

The judge has to decide whether police violated Hernandez's rights by questioning him at a prosecutor's office in New Jersey for more than seven hours without giving Miranda warnings, and whether he had the capacity to knowingly and intelligently waive his rights when he was finally advised of them before making two videotaped confessions.

A defense expert testified that Hernandez thought once he started talking to police before getting the warnings he felt he couldn't stop, and incorrectly believed it would be held against him if he remained silent, but Sweda said Hernandez understood his rights and just wanted to get the killing of Patz off his chest.

In addition to the experts, prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon asked Wiley Tuesday to consider tapes of six jailhouse calls from Hernandez, in which he demonstrated his intellectual capacity by discussing financial matters and legal strategy with his wife and daughter.

Defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein told Wiley the conversations showed Hernandez could echo "actual life experiences" but did not show the capacity for "abstract thinking" involved with Miranda rights.

More news