NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Sparks flew in the courtroom Thursday when the defense attorney for Pedro Hernandez, the man accused of killing 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979, made another demand for a mistrial.

Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein is attempting to prove that Hernandez’s confession to the murder was a result of mental illness and hallucinations. But in a reversal of his earlier ruling, Judge Maxwell Wiley has allowed prosecutors to explore the defendant’s alleged heavy cocaine use as an alternate explanation for his visions and voices, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

Fishbein’s courtroom explosion came after a prosecutor questioning psychiatrist Michael First suggested that the first defense witness — Hernandez’s daughter, Becky — knew about her father’s cocaine abuse.

The defense lawyer complained that because Becky hadn’t been allowed to mention it under the judge’s first ruling, jurors will be left thinking she was hiding something, covering up for her father.

“The defense has been sabotaged by this court,” Fishbein said.

The motion for a mistrial was denied, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

Hernandez confessed in 2012 to choking Etan in the basement of the SoHo convenience store where he worked, then tossing the body with trash a few blocks away. Etan’s body was never found. He had been walking to his school bus stop.

The boy’s disappearance ushered in a new protectiveness into American parenting.

He became one of the first missing children featured on milk cartons. His parents advocated for legislation that created a nationwide law-enforcement framework to address such cases.

The anniversary of his disappearance, May 25, is now National Missing Children’s Day.


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