In a NY1 exclusive, Joan Illuzzi, the woman who prosecuted Pedro Hernandez for the murder of Etan Patz, gives her first sitdown interview since the trial and tells NY1's Michael Herzenberg about the case and her new role as the Republican candidate for Staten Island district attorney.
Joan Illuzzi says she's running for Staten Island District Attorney because it's her dream job.
"I am a lifelong Staten Islander and a career prosecutor," says the long-time assistant DA.
She's worked for 27 years as an Assistant DA in Manhattan, the last five as head of the hate crimes unit.
She just prosecuted one of her biggest cases yet – the 1979 murder of Etan Patz.
"I am so proud of my work and my office's work in that case, that 11 people were absolutely convinced of the defendant's guilt," Illuzzi says.
But it wasn't enough. One of the 12 jurors refused to convict Pedro Hernandez, causing a hung jury despite Hernandez's multiple confessions.
Illuzzi says she has no doubt of Hernandez's guilt, citing his statement to police that back in 1979, there was no door in front of the alley where he said dumped Etan's body.
"That was a tremendous piece of evidence that nobody from law enforcement could have known or could have in any way implanted in this man's mind," she says.
The Staten Island DA's Office has been shadowed by a high-profile case of its own. Eric Garner died after being placed in a chokehold by police, an event that was captured on video.
Was Illuzzi surprised that there was no indictment in the case?
"I don't know anything about the investigation of the case, and I had no participation in reviewing the evidence there, and I don't know that that was the only video that was presented to the grand jury," Illuzzi says. "So the answer to that is, I don't know."
Illuzzi says Garner's death was a loss for the entire community. Some are bitter that her predecessor, Republican Dan Donovan, did not get an indictment. She defends Donovan, saying he handled the case with integrity.
As for her case, the lack of a conviction in the death of Etan Patz, Illuzi goes on the offensive.
"Anybody who uses that case and the investigation and prosecution of that case has never been a part of the prosecution team," she says.