New York Judge to Examine Confession in Patz Case

A New York judge will determine whether the videotaped confessions of Pedro Hernandez, who admitted to murdering Etan Patz, are admissible. So reports The New York Times.

Six-year-old Etan Patz’s disappearance in 1979 went unsolved for more than two decades before Pedro Hernandez confessed in 2012 to murdering the boy. Hernandez gave his confession after seven hours in a police interrogation. Police only began to tape the interrogation when Hernandez said something incriminating. Police say they read him the Miranda warning before the recording began. Hernandez gave two more videotaped confessions eleven hours later, when he was taken to the prosecutor’s office.

Hernandez’s attorney has moved to exclude the videotaped confession. His attorney points out that the videotapes do not show the several hours leading up to Hernandez’s confession, hours in which Hernandez could have been improperly coerced into confessing. Prosecutors deny any wrongdoing by the police, and state that they plan to let the videotapes speak for themselves.

Hernandez’s attorney also argues that the confession is inadmissible because Hernandez has a low I.Q. and a history of mental illness. Hernandez may not have understood his Miranda rights. If so, his waiver of those rights would be invalid, and the confession would be inadmissible in trial.

Studies show that “people with low I.Q.s are particularly susceptible to making false confessions.” Those with lower IQs are more susceptible to coercion because they are “more compliant and more suggestible,” states Steven A. Drizin, legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University.

The hearing on the videotaped confessions is expected to conclude at the end of October.