French Court Frees Convicted Man
BORDEAUX, France (AP) _ A French court rejected a U.S. extradition request Thursday and freed Ira Einhorn, the former hippie guru who was convicted in absentia for the murder of his girlfriend 20 years ago.
The Court of Appeals in the southwestern city of Bordeaux did not explain why it refused to hand over Einhorn. But under French law, any person convicted in absentia is entitled to a new trial, something Einhorn would have been denied in the United States if he had been extradited.
``Thank you,″ Einhorn told presiding Judge Claude Arrighi, who freed the 57-year-old former anti-war activist, futurist and adviser to Philadelphia’s rich and powerful on condition he report to French judicial authorities twice a week on his whereabouts.
Einhorn was not released immediately. A court in nearby Angouleme detained him over possible immigration violations, before eventually letting him go and ordering him to remain in France until the investigation is over.
After finally being released, Einhorn hugged his smiling Swedish girlfriend as he left the court, raised his arms in triumph and then picked up a cardboard box tied with string that contained his belongings from prison, where he spent six months in custody.
The court’s chief prosecutor appealed the rejection to France’s highest court.
U.S. authorities wanted Einhorn to return to serve a life sentence in prison. In 1993, a Pennsylvania court convicted him in absentia for the murder of his girlfriend, Holly Maddux of Tyler, Texas.
Authorities found the 31-year-old woman’s mummified remains in a steamer trunk in Einhorn’s closet in 1979, 18 months after they say she was killed. Legal wrangling delayed the proceedings for almost two decades.
Joel Rosen, the Philadelphia assistant district attorney who won the conviction against Einhorn in 1993, said Thursday’s ruling disgusted him.
``I’m sick to my stomach,″ Rosen said. ``He’s an American citizen, he’s not French. He killed an American citizen, not a French citizen. He killed in America, not in France. We have an extradition treaty with France.″
The victim’s family was stunned.
``This person killed my sister and he needs to be held accountable,″ said Meg Maddux Wakeman of Seattle.
Norris Gelman, Einhorn’s lawyer during the 1993 trial, said he never doubted the French court would reject the extradition because in absentia convictions are not highly regarded internationally.
Pennsylvania does not grant new trials for people convicted in absentia.
Einhorn used fake documents to register in Champagne-Mouton, a village near Angouleme, 240 miles southwest of Paris.