Ira Einhorn Trial: 1993

views updated

Ira Einhorn Trial: 1993

Defendant: Ira Einhorn
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyer: Norris E. Gelman
Chief Prosecutors: Lynne Abraham, Joel Rosen
Judge: Juanita Kidd Stout
Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date of Trial: September 1993
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Life imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: Philadelphia prosecutors took the unusual step of trying Ira Einhorn in absentia more than 12 years after he had jumped bail and fled the country. Located in France some four years after being convicted, Ira Einhorn successfully resisted extradition until July 2001.

In 1979, Ira Einhorn had held a unique place in the Philadelphia civic community for several years. A self-proclaimed guru of the counter culture movement of the 1960s, he had managed, as the movement faded, to avoid becoming marginalized. Without compromising his commitment to nonviolence, sexual liberation, drug experimentation, and the other trappings of the hippie lifestyle, he had become accepted by a wide spectrum of society's leaders. He worked tirelessly as an organizer, facilitator, speaker, and consultant of sorts, and took great pride in the international network of correspondents he had cultivated. The movements and causes that he supported were an eclectic mix of environmentalism, futurism, the paranormal, and the occult, laced with conspiracy theories. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, had done some graduate work and teaching, and his credentials and reputation were enough to earn him a prestigious fellowship at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1976-77.

An Abusive Relationship Leads to Murder

Einhorn met Helen "Holly" Maddux in October 1972. She was an intelligent, attractive, slightly built young woman of 25. Maddux had grown up in Tyler, Texas, and entered Bryn Mawr as a freshman in 1965. She experienced difficulty in adjusting to the profound differences between life at the elite eastern liberal arts college and that of her small east Texas hometown. She was drawn to the popular counterculture lifestyle of the late 1960s; her academic career suffered, and she did not complete her degree until 1971, at which time she apparently had very little idea of what she wanted to do with her life. She began living with Ira Einhorn in his modest apartment on Race Street in the Powelton neighborhood of Philadelphia soon after their first meeting. It was an open and uncommitted relationship, as befitted the lifestyle they had both adopted. There were several acrimonious separations over the next few years, followed by reconciliation. Mutual friends were aware that Einhorn was physically abusive of Maddux on occasions, but the relationship lasted for almost five years.

In the summer of 1977, however, it appeared that this relationship was about to end, or at least to undergo a significant change. Maddux had become involved with a man, Saul Lapidus, whom she had met on Fire Island a year earlier, and she was planning to move into an apartment of her own in Philadelphia. In September she returned to the city from a visit to Lapidus, and disappeared. Maddux's parents and her friends in Philadelphia became concerned when they heard nothing from her for several weeks. Einhorn told them the same story: she had been with him in September, but one day had gone out to buy some groceries and had not returned. A couple of days later she had called him and told him that she was alright, but he should not try to find her. She said she would call him regularly, but she had not done so. As more weeks went by, including the passage of several family birthdays, which previously Maddux had always remembered, Maddux's parents became increasingly disturbed. In early 1978 they hired a private investigator to try to find her. After more than a year of tracing her movements and interviewing neighbors and friends, the private detectives took their findings to the Philadelphia police, who then obtained a warrant to search Ira Einhorn's apartment at 3411 Race Street. There, on March 28, 1979, they found the decomposed and partially mummified body of Holly Maddux in a locked steamer trunk in a locked closet in the back porch of the apartment. Ira Einhorn was arrested at the scene and charged with murder later the same day.

Defendant Flees the Country

Einhorn appeared at a bail hearing before Judge William M. Marutani on April 3. He was represented by Arlen Specter, who had served two terms as a district attorney in Philadelphia, but who would withdraw from the case shortly afterwards as he began his successful campaign for election to the U.S. Senate. Specter was able to produce such an impressive array of prominent professionals as character witnesses for Einhorn that the judge released him on a $40,000 bond, a remarkably low amount in a murder case. Einhorn consistently and stridently maintained his complete innocence. He knew nothing about the body in the trunk; he expressed doubts that it was that of Holly Maddux. He suggested that the whole affair was a conspiracy by the CIA designed to interfere with important work he was currently engaged in, which had international security ramifications.

The process of preparing for trial was a lengthy one, but a trial date of February or March 1981 was set; Barbara Christie was assigned to lead the prosecution. Norris E. Gelman had taken over Einhorn's defense. The trial did not take place because Einhorn fled, probably in the second week of January 1981. He is believed to have left the country via Canada, and then gone on to Europe. A bench warrant for his arrest was issued on January 14 when he failed to appear for a pretrial hearing. The search to locate him and bring him back to the United States would go on for the next 20 years. Rich diBenedetto, of the extraditions office of the Philadelphia district attorney's office, headed these efforts. Einhorn was located in Ireland late in 1981, and again in 1984 and 1986, but international legal problems prevented his arrest, and he fled again. In 1988 he narrowly escaped arrest in Stockholm, Sweden, and again disappeared.

A Trial without the Defendant Present

Frustrated in their attempts to recapture Einhorn, the Philadelphia district attorney's office decided in 1993 to pursue the unusual course of trying him in absentia that is, in his absence. In absentia trials are rare and controversial. The accused is denied what are generally considered fundamental rights of Western judicial procedure: the right to testify in their own defense, to confront their accusers and the witnesses against them, and to consult with their counsel. However, a ruling of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court provided the opportunity for the successful filing of a motion to proceed with a trial in absentia. The district attorney argued that the prosecution had an overwhelming case for conviction, but that its strength would be inevitably weakened as time passed: witnesses might die, memories become less reliable. Assistant District Attorney Joel Rosen, with seven years experience of prosecuting homicide cases in Philadelphia, led the prosecution. Norris Gelman continued to represent Einhorn, having been instructed to do so by a Common Pleas judge in 1992. He had been paid from a legal defense fund established by Einhorn's friends. The trial was set for mid-September 1993, in the Court of Common Pleas, before Judge Juanita Kidd Stout.

Gelman was unsuccessful in a pre-trial motion to block the trial on the grounds that the accused had not been notified that the trial was scheduled, and quite possibly did not know about it. He achieved limited success with a motion to exclude as hearsay statements by friends of Holly Maddux that she had told them that Einhorn had beaten her. These witnesses could testify that they had seen Maddux with bruises and red marks on her skin, but they could not accuse Einhorn of causing them. For the prosecution, retired detective Robert Coates described the search of Einhorn's apartment, and the discovery of the body. The former city medical examiner, Halbert E. Fillinger, testified that Maddux had died as a result of at least six blows to the head, delivered with such force that fragments of her skull had penetrated her brain. He ruled out the possibility of these injuries being the result of a fall or other accident.

Friends of Maddux testified to knowing that she intended to leave Einhorn because he was too domineering, and others to having observed her with bruises. A former friend of Einhorn, Joyce Costello, testified that in mid-September she had helped him move the trunk in which the body was found, and that he had told her it contained "Russian documents." Saul Lapidus testified that he had put Holly Maddux on a plane to Philadelphia on September 10, 1977, because she needed to "calm" Einhorn. Rich diBenedetto described the search for Einhorn and the various sightings of him between 1981 and 1988.

For the defense, Gelman was only able to bring witnesses who had been interviewed by the private investigators searching for Holly Maddux who said they had seen a woman who resembled her some months after the alleged killing took place. On September 30 the jury returned a verdict of guilty, and Einhorn was sentenced to life imprisonment. Gelman appealed, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ultimately upheld the trial and the verdict.

The search for Ira Einhorn, headed by diBenedetto went on. In June 1997 he was found to be living in France, under the name of Eugene Mallon, with his Swedish wife, and he was arrested. However, a French court turned down the request for extradition on the gounds that a trial in absentia violates the European Convention on Human Rights, to which France is a signatory. Einhorn was released after some months in custody, but because he had entered the country illegally, he was required to report weekly to the police. The Pennsylvania Assembly responded to this obstacle by passing a law granting Einhorn a new trial. In February 1999 a three-judge court in Bordeaux ruled that Einhorn could be extradited, provided that he be granted an "equitable" trial with a right to appeal, and that he not be subject to the death penalty. Einhorn's attorneys appealed this ruling, but it was upheld by the French prime minister. In July 1999 a jury in a civil court in Philadelphia awarded $907 million in wrongful death damages to Holly Maddux's family (her parents being now dead).

Finally, on July 20, 2001, Einhorn was extradited to the United States to face a new trial for the murder of Holly Maddux.

David I. Petts

Suggestions for Further Reading

Caba, Susan. "No Surrender." The Philadelphia Inquirer, Inquirer Sunday Magazine (September 12, 1993).

Levy, Steven. The Unicorn's Secret MurderintheAgeofAquariusNewYork: Prentice Hall Press, 1988.