Hamill: It's been 36 years and there's still no conclusion to the Etan Patz case MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE Pedro Hernandez (left, in screen grab from video) confessed to killing Etan Patz, but his lawyer said he didn't do it. The jury is out. Tension closes in. The clock ticks like the tireless wheel of life. Reminding us that Etan Patz, 6, the little prince of Prince St. never got a chance to live his life. And that Pedro Hernandez, 54, the defendant in Patz’s murder trial faces a life sentence. Thirty-six years after he vanished on his walk to a school bus on a Manhattan streetcorner, seven men and five women marooned in a windowless deliberation room on the seventh floor of the courthouse at 111 Centre St. are trying to decide if justice will finally be served for Etan’s family. “This is like waiting outside a maternity ward,” says lead defense lawyer Harvey Fishbein, rattling change in his pants pocket. “Big cases bring big worries,” says Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, lead Manhattan prosecutor. “But I want justice for the Patz family whose son was murdered before they knew he was even missing.” Hernandez sits as if waiting to hear his number called at the DMV, a still life painted with a stunned semismile like a human sea gull. Illuzzi-Orbon paces the hallways, popping Tic Tacs, or jiggling her right foot sitting at the prosecution table listening to jury-requested readback testimony about Miranda Rights preceding Hernandez’s disputed videotaped confession to strangling young Patz. MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE Etan Patz was just 6 years old when he left to get the school bus on May 25, 1979. He was never seen again. I asked her if the Patz family believes that Hernandez and not the long-suspected Jose Ramos — boyfriend of Etan Patz’s baby-sitter and a convicted pedophile already doing life for unrelated crimes — is the monster who murdered Etan Patz. “You’ll have to ask the Patz family that,” she says. “I do know they are hoping for a conviction in this trial.” The Patz family has not been present in the courtroom during deliberations. The seasoned courthouse reporters who have covered the entire trial say the lawyering on both sides has been exemplary. “It could go either way,” says one keen reporter. When I mention this to Fishbein he says, “That sounds like reasonable doubt When asked what she thought about Fishbein’s performance in the three-month trial, Illuzzi-Orbon says, “My adversary was excellent.” Asked his opinion of the prosecutor, Fishbein smiles. “She did a fine job presenting what she believes to be the truth.” Out in the hallway, sitting on a bench the way he used to idle away summer afternoons on stoops growing up in working-class Bensonhurst as the son of a Jewish father and Italian mother, Fishbein explains how he came to represent Hernandez. “I’m chair of the Central Screening Committee for the Assigned Counsel Plan, overseeing the 18-B attorneys appointed to represent indigent criminal defendants in New York County and Bronx County,” he says. “I wasn’t in a rush to be involved in the Patz case. I went to Lafayette High, played stickball in Seth Low Park, I drove a cab, and like most New Yorkers, the Etan Patz case affected me deeply. That kid in that iconic picture broke every New Yorker’s heart.” MICHAEL GRAAE FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Defense attorney Harvey Fishbein sees "reasonable doubt" in case. When he met Hernandez, he had immediate doubts that he killed Patz. “Here’s a guy who never was accused of this kind of crime before or since,” he says. “And those confessions, without corroborating evidence, will never stand up in an appeals court even if he is convicted here. Which judging by what the jury has been asking for so far, I don’t think he will be. I think the man who should be on trial here is Jose Ramos.” He’s not alone in his thinking. After the second day of deliberations ended, I drove to the corner of W. Broadway and Prince St. where Etan Patz was supposed to board his school bus on May 25, 1979. Instead, he disappeared. I talked to six people before anyone ever heard of Etan Patz. “My father grew up on McDougal St. so he remembers it clearly,” says Dominic Cangro, 50, a postal worker in the West Village. “We moved to Bensonhurst where I was raised. But the bodega where this guy Hernandez worked is right there where the Michael Negrin store is. I followed this case my whole life. I don’t believe the Hernandez guy on trial is the killer. I think he’s a nut. I think it was Ramos, the Patz baby-sitter’s boyfriend, who snatched Etan, did what he did, and dumped the body in an alley off Thompson St. That’s what a lot of the old-timers around here think.” It only matters what the 12 jurors think. They resume deliberations on Monday.