Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ira Einhorn: The Unicorn Killer

Updates 2000-2001

On July 25, 2000, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Ira Einhorn's two-decade flight from justice became tenuous when French Premier Lionel Jospin signed the necessary papers to begin extradition proceedings against him.  Under French law, Einhorn was given sixty days to launch an appeal, a process that was expected to take many months to resolve.

Following the decision, Einhorn's lawyers were expected to launch an appeal to France's highest legal body, the Council of State, and the European Court of Human Rights.

After being notified of the decision by the U.S. Justice Department, District Attorney Lynne Abraham issued the following statement:

"I am happy that the process is moving forward toward his facing justice, however, given his track record, I am still concerned that he is going to flee. He has vowed never to return to Philadelphia."

The paper also reported that Einhorn's legal team would assert that their client "had no guarantee of a new trial if extradited to the United States, despite a Pennsylvania law that allows him to petition for one."  They were also expected to argue that the Pennsylvania law is unconstitutional, as they believe it "interferes with the final judgment of Einhorn's trial in absentia."

Under French law, anyone convicted in absentia is entitled to a retrial.

The report described how Premier Jolpin agreed to sign the order only after "the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed special legislation granting Einhorn the chance to petition for a new trial, and U.S. officials pledged that Einhorn would not face execution."

Holly Maddux's sister, Margaret Wakeman, was in Paris when the papers were signed and later told reporters:

"It's pretty exciting to hear that there's one less move that he's got.  Let's see, it's been how many years? Three since the apprehension, a year and a half since the last court decision. I guess it's about time. Time takes on a new element and a new dimension when you're in the position we're in."

Backyard of Einhorn's cottage in France
Backyard of Einhorn's cottage in

On September 7, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that the French police had set up a 24-hour surveillance outside Einhorn's cottage in the south of France in case he decided to flee. 

Twelve days later the Philadelphia Enquirer ran a story describing how Ira Einhorn had appealed to Premier Jospin to reconsider his decision and confirmed that an appeal had been made to France's Council of State. He also told the press that he could not guarantee that he will not flee again, if his final appeals fail.

In response to Einhorn's comments, District Attorney Abraham said:

"I don't care how long it takes. I intend to be at the airport when Ira Einhorn is brought home in chains to stand trial, once again, for the murder of Holly Maddux. The witnesses are not going to go away. He's not going to out-fox me."

"I'm going to be there, and all the witnesses are going to be there. He can't outlive the witnesses either. He'll never be able to outlive the dead body, the trunk, and the key to his locked closet in his apartment."

On October 7, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Premier Jospin had "affirmed his decision to extradite the convicted killer to the United States, denying Einhorn's request that he reconsider the matter."

In response District Attorney Abraham told a press conference:

"This must make Ira Einhorn so nervous, which is good.  He must know he will ultimately lose this fight."

Abraham also stated that the French government had denied her request to take Einhorn into custody.  "He is a severe risk of flight," she said, "He has said he has no intention of going back to the United States."

Poster promoting Extradition Reform, using a headshot of Holly
Poster promoting Extradition Reform,
using a headshot of Holly

On December 4th, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Einhorn's lawyers had filed their appeal to the French Council of State.  Just eight days later the lawyers received their decision,  France's highest legal body had rejected all of their arguments clearing the way for Einhorn's extradition, pending the final appeal before the European Court of Rights.

After hearing the news, Einhorn allegedly cut his neck with a knife and was hospitalized.  His wife later declared that this apparent act of desperation was in fact a "political act."

On July 19, 2001, the Philadelphia Enquirer reported that the European Court on Human Rights had announced it "did not oppose the return of Einhorn to the USA."

Finally, after twenty years on the run, Ira Einhorn had run out of options.

On July 21 2001, just two days after the decision, a Court TV report described how Einhorn, "shackled and wearing a bulletproof vest, was returned to the U.S. arriving at Philadelphia International Airport at around 4 a.m. under armed guard just hours after being taken into custody at his home in France."

The report also detailed that, having already been convicted in absentia, he will now be tried again "to satisfy a French requirement that foreign nationals not be extradited based on trials in absentia."

The report also carried a comment from Elisabeth "Buffy" Hall, Holly Maddux's sister: 

Ira Einhorn , 7/19/2001
Ira Einhorn , 7/19/2001

"I hope this has actually wiped that smirk off his face that we've had to look at for four years, and I'm sure he'll enjoy his stay in the Pennsylvania penal system."

"It's our time to smirk."

During the eight-hour flight, three deputy U.S. marshals, an FBI agent, a Philadelphia homicide detective and a physician accompanied Einhorn, the Court TV report said.   After his arrival Einhorn was taken to a federal courthouse before being transferred to a maximum-security state prison near Philadelphia.

District Attorney Lynne Abraham had the final word: "This is very satisfying because we've waited so long and worked so hard, this is the beginning, not the end."

No trial date has been set. 


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