NEW YORK – The jury deliberating in the murder trial of a man accused of kidnapping and killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979 said Wednesday that it is deadlocked, but the judge told them to keep trying.
Jurors have been deliberating since April 15. They sent a note to the judge Wednesday afternoon saying they have been unable to reach a unanimous decision in the trial of Pedro Hernandez.
The defense argued for a mistrial, saying it was obvious the jury was hung.
"Any charge to them at this point, even sending a note in to them saying, 'Would you like to try harder?' is inherently coercive," said lawyer Alice Fontier. "We believe that a mistrial is warranted, and any further proceedings after that are over the strenuous objections of the defense."
The judge denied the motion and told jurors to keep deliberating.
Hernandez made a surprise confession in 2012. He told authorities he choked Etan in the basement of a convenience store where he worked and dumped the body a few blocks away.
But prosecutors had no physical evidence linking Hernandez to the crime. Etan's body was never found. Defense attorneys suggested another man had committed the crime and said Hernandez was mentally ill.
The case has baffled authorities for decades.
Etan's photo was among the first on a milk carton. His parents helped shepherd in an era of law enforcement advances that make it easier to track missing children and communicate between agencies. They were at the White House when Ronald Reagan named May 25 National Missing Children's Day.