Etan Patz - The Face on the Milk Carton

Etan Patz’s murder suspect hires renowned expert in defending false confession

Attorneys for Pedro Hernandez, accused of abducting and killing Etan Patz, have hired a world renowned expert in false confessions to assist in his defense.

British forensic psychologist Gisli Gudjonsson has been brought on to help prove that Hernandez was coerced by police interrogators into providing a false confession, attorney Harvey Fishbein said.

Hernandez is a 52-year-old husband and father of two with no criminal record with a schizotypal personality disorder that causes hallucinations and, according to his attorneys, he has an IQ in the “borderline-to-mild mental retardation range.”

“Statements that were taken under improper circumstances are inadmissible and that’s what happened here,” Fishbein said.

Gudjonnson is a noted scholar in memory recall and interrogative suggestibility and is a professor emeritus at King’s College London. He created the Gudjonnson Suggestibility Scales (GSS) which were developed to objectively measure a person’s vulnerability to providing false accounts during interviews, specifically in the context of a police interview.

“He’s the most competent,” Fishbein said. “He’s on board and he’s already written a report.”

Gudjonnson has previously provided expert evaluation in a number of high profile cases in both the U.S. and abroad. Specifically, according to King’s College, he has assisted in the trials of the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, the Tottenham Three, the Cardiff Three, Kenneth Erskine (the ‘Stockwell strangler’), Raymond Gilmour in Scotland, Henry Lee Lucas and John Wille (USA).The story behind the Guildford Four later became the feature film “In the Name of the Father” starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared on the two-block walk from his home to school on May 25, 1979. His disappearance left the city of New York in a panic and led to national awareness for missing children. Patz was the original missing child on the milk carton.

In May, police received a tip that Hernandez once admitted to “killing a child in New York” and law enforcement questioned him for what his attorneys say was Six to Seven hours. During the interrogation police say he confessed to luring Patz into the basement of a nearby bodega where he worked, strangling the boy, putting his body in a box and dumping it in the trash.

Law enforcement subsequently launched a full investigation into Hernandez, searching his home, computers, nearby landfills, and the building where the bodega used to be, but as of yet have found no corroborating physical evidence.

In the State of New York prosecutors need only a confession and proof that a crime occurred in order to get a conviction, which is why Fishbein has brought in Gudjonnson.

Patz was declared legally dead by his father more than a decade ago so that his parents could sue convicted child molester Jose Ramos for his death. Ramos was dating Patz’s babysitter in 1979 when the boy disappeared and he was a lead suspect but was never charged.

Ryan Kerns, Esq., Wild About Trial

Source: AP

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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