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Retrial of suspect in 1979 kidnapping and slaying of Etan Patz is scheduled for next year

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NEW YORK — A judge on Monday scheduled the retrial of a suspect in the 1979 kidnapping and slaying of Etan Patz for early next year.

State Supreme Court Judge Maxwell Wiley had considered scheduling the retrial of Pedro Hernandez earlier. But he instead set jury selection for Feb. 22 to give a new prosecutor on the missing-child case more time to prepare.

The delay was opposed by defense attorney Harvey Fishbein. He complained at a hearing that Hernandez should get a sooner chance to win his freedom after being behind bars since mid-2012.

"It's about what's fair, what's right, what's human," Fishbein said.

A previous trial that lasted five months ended in May after more than three weeks of deliberations with the jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt.

Six-year-old Etan vanished after leaving his family's SoHo apartment to walk to the bus. The disappearance helped galvanize the modern-day missing-children's movement with his picture appearing on a milk carton.

Hernandez, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, confessed in 2012, more than three decades after the boy disappeared. But his lawyers argued he was mentally ill and his statements were fictional ravings.

Three jurors from the previous trial who voted for a conviction turned up in court Monday and sat with the victim's father, Stan Patz, in a show of support for the family. Since the mistrial, the father has been outspoken about his belief that Hernandez is guilty.

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