Burden of Proof

Ira Einhorn Case: 22 Years After Murder, Will Justice be Served?

Aired February 26, 1999 - 12:30 a.m. ET

This is a rush transcript. this copy may not be in its final form and may be updated

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: He was on the run for 16 years eluding trial for the 1977 death of his girlfriend. Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: Will Ira Einhorn ever be returned to face justice for a corpse found in his closet, or will he flee again?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the conclusion of what we hope will be a successful appeal from our perspective, that he will be brought back here to face trial.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Roger Cossack and Greta Van Susteren.

COSSACK: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF. Twenty-two years ago, the beaten body of Holly Maddux was found in a trunk in a closet at the Philadelphia home of anti-war activist Ira Einhorn. Einhorn was charged with murder and faced trial in 1981. But on the eve of that trial, he fled Pennsylvania.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: While on the run, Einhorn was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison. French authorities arrested him then in 1997, but refused to return him back to the United States. They cited a French law which requires a retrial

COSSACK: The Pennsylvania legislature responded and passed its own law promising such a retrial, and Einhorn was rearrested. But last week, a French court demanded that he not face the death penalty for the crime and set him free pending appeal.

Joining us today from New York, author Steven Levy. His book, "The Unicorn's Secret," traces the Einhorn case.

VAN SUSTEREN: And, in Seattle, Meg Wakeman, the sister of victim Holly Maddux. Here in Washington, Mandy Deroche (ph), comparative law professor Jim Feinerman, and defense lawyer Kenny Robinson. In our back row, Lori Sachs (ph), Bobbie Cochran (ph), and Mandy Krauthamer (ph).

Let me go first to Seattle to you, Meg. Meg, how did your sister first meet Ira Einhorn?

MEG WAKEMAN, HOLLY MADDUX'S SISTER: She walked into a cafe in Philadelphia and she was the type who was so beautiful that people took a lot of notice when she walked into a room, and he saw her and said he was going to have that woman, and he did.

VAN SUSTEREN: What year was that?

WAKEMAN: I think it was around 1972.

COSSACK: Meg, when their relationship first started, can you describe how Ira was with her?

WAKEMAN: From what I gather from what she said, he had a rather strong personality, and she, I think, became fairly enveloped by his personality.

VAN SUSTEREN: Meg, you met him, did you not?

WAKEMAN: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: When did you meet him? Where was it? And what was your impression of him?

WAKEMAN: It was in Tyler at our family home. I was in my late teens and Holly had written us and said: I'm bringing Ira to meet everybody and I don't think you are going to like him. And our impression of that statement was, well, he probably votes straight Democrat and here he is in Republican land. But that's not exactly how it ended up. He was quite rude to everyone, and extraordinarily arrogant, and tried to pick fights with our father. He, frankly, ignored me, which was just fine with me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you give me an example of how he was rude, or what types of fights he picked, and give me better idea of what he was like then?

WAKEMAN: He -- I remember my brother trying to start a conversation with him and on several occasions, and Ira just, you know, practically pushed him away. At the dinner table, Holly asked him if he would like to look at her baby book, to look at pictures of her growing up because our father had taken quite a few pictures of. And he said: No, I want you to comb my hair.

And this is right after he had been arguing, or trying to pick an argument with our father about, I don't know, Vietnam policy or Democrat versus Republican, something where he was being the antagonist.

COSSACK: Meg, what was the relationship like between your sister and Ira? What did they do? Where did they go?

WAKEMAN: Holly followed Ira wherever he went. Ira, basically, told her what to do and when, and this was very unusual and very concerning to us because Holly had always been quite a free-spirit, and quite brilliant one at that, with great ideas. She seemed to start planning her schedule around whatever he did, including some family vacations that we had planned that she didn't get to go on. And I think that came on fairly early in the relationship.

VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, let me go to you, you have written "The Unicorn's Secret," which is about the disappearance and murder of Holly. Tell me who Ira Einhorn is, or who he was? What was the intrigue in terms of writing this book?

STEVEN LEVY, AUTHOR, "THE UNICORN'S SECRET": In Philadelphia, Ira was quite a celebrity. He was one of the best known people in the city. During the '60s, Ira was the conduit for a lot of the things happening outside of Philadelphia, which really isn't a cutting-edge location, when people like Allen Ginsberg or Abbie Hoffman or Joey Rubin (ph) would come to town, Ira, who knew these people, would host them. He hosted the first "be in" in Philadelphia. And he became the spokesperson for a lot of the things going on in the '60s there.

And as the '70s came around he actually started networking pretty seriously into politics, into management. He was friends with people of Bell telephone and other organizations. So he was actually becoming part of the city's establishment in a very strange way.

COSSACK: Steve, did Ira have a job? Did he work? How did he support himself?

LEVY: Ira described himself as a "planetary enzyme." He would say I'm just Ira. He lived on very little money, and he would get either grants from corporations, he would get money from consulting from publishers, he would sometimes send them authors. He wrote a book, himself, but the book was sort of an embarrassing collection of bad poetry. He wasn't a very good writer to his chagrin. He was better at identifying other people's ideas and circulating them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Meg, back in September of 1977, your sister went off to Europe with Ira, returned and it was at some point that I assume you realized that she was missing. How did you come to realize that she was missing back in September of '77?

WAKEMAN: She told us in August that when she came back to Philadelphia she would be moving and going to Long Island area, and that she would let us know in the middle of September what her phone number and address was.

We didn't hear from her then, and so we waited maybe a week or two, and then mom called up Ira said: You know, we haven't heard from Holly, do you know where she is?

And he said: Nope, got out of the shower, she was gone.

And so mom said: You know, if you hear anything, let us know.

About that time, we had some family birthdays that Holly missed, and she never ever missed any type of a holiday with us. So that's when we started getting very concerned. VAN SUSTEREN: What did you do then?

WAKEMAN: Well, we started telling, you know, some of the friends and relatives, if you hear from Holly, would you let us know? And then we just didn't say a whole lot else because we thought, well, if she wanted to leave him and she needed some space, perhaps this a way of doing it. We gave her benefit of the doubt actually is what we did.

COSSACK: Steve, there came a time that the authorities discovered Holly Maddux had been murdered. How did that occur?

LEVY: Well, the Maddux family did hire a private detective, a former FBI agent, who teamed up with another former FBI agent working privately in Philadelphia, and together they really cracked the case.

Ira refused to cooperate, which they thought was suspicious, and he was involved in other activities. He was actually, during this period, a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, which is a pretty prestigious post. But he wouldn't cooperate. And, as they looked into it more, they actually discovered that neighbors living underneath Ira's place had complained about an odor and liquid coming from Einhorn's apartment.

And when the private detectives finally concluded it was Einhorn, they presented their evidence to the Philadelphia police, who had really ignored the case because Ira, himself, had assured them: Oh, I'm not the kind of person who would do this. He knew those people in Philadelphia police. And they believed him.

But this evidence led the Philadelphia police to revisit the case, get a search warrant, and then they discovered, to everyone's dismay, the body of Holly Maddux in a trunk in Einhorn's apartment about 10 feet from where he slept.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we are going to take a break. Up next, authorities spent parts of two decades trying to bring Ira Einhorn to justice. The search for a fugitive and his trial in absentia, when we come back.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

A judge in Nebraska has thrown out a case in which a couple claimed that another parent was to blame for their teenage daughter's pregnancy. The judge called it, "One of the weakest, if not most frivolous," cases he had ever been involved with.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Since 1981, Ira Einhorn has been running from the law. Einhorn, now 58-years-old, fled Pennsylvania before he could be tried for murdering his girlfriend. Though he wasn't found until 1997, U.S. authorities tried and convicted Einhorn while he was still on the run. Steve, I'm going back to his arrest back in March of 1979. Can you give me an idea of, you know, what happened up until the time he fled the country in 1981.

LEVY: Sure. Einhorn delivered, you know, the most prominent list of character witnesses they've ever seen in Philadelphia to testify what a great guy he was why he should get a very low bail. His lawyer is Arlen Specter, now a senator, who was not yet running for Senate. He had been the district attorney in Philadelphia. They gave him a bail of $40,000. Only $4,000 of which had to be put up in cash.

And for the next year and a half he went around telling his friends that: this trial was going to free me because I didn't do it and just look at me, you know I'm not the kind of person who would commit this murder.

Yet, on the eve of the trial, in 1981, he fled. He wasn't being watched very closely and he actually had to Europe once before that period.

COSSACK: Steve, there came a time when the authorities -- after he fled, the authorities began to search for him. Tell us about that search.

LEVY: Well, immediately after -- about six months afterwards, he had been staying in Ireland with a young woman he ran off with. And those people made a trip to the United States and he had used his real name and they said: I wonder who this guy Ira Einhorn is?

COSSACK: The people that he was staying with?

LEVY: Yes, their curiosity was peeked because he told them: When you go to the United States, don't mention my name. And they thought that was strange. They asked a friend who worked for a newspaper and the person checked it and said, you know: This guy is wanted for murder.

Unfortunately, we had no extradition treaty with Ireland at that point. So, when these people returned to their home, they called the police and all the police could do was say: We'll go with you to help you throw him out of your apartment. Which he did. And Einhorn, you know, actually stayed in Ireland for a few more questions. And so, we did get an extradition treaty and then he realized, when he was spotted again, that he'd better get out of there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Meg, now I want to come up to the current time. And there's been this court battle in Bordeaux, France, about whether or not he'll be returned to the United States. Did you -- have you been over to France for any of these court hearings?

WAKEMAN: Yes, I went over for the December 1st hearing, when all the evidence was -- about whether he should be extradited or not -- was presented by all the sides. Then I went back in January for what was to be the decision, but then it was delayed until February. VAN SUSTEREN: Did you have any opportunity to speak to Mr. Einhorn or did you say anything to him or what was your -- what did you observe about him? It's been a long time since you had seen him.

WAKEMAN: No, I didn't have anything to say to him nor an opportunity. However, he was sitting in the courtroom about 20 feet from us and he appeared to be -- he had the behavior of a caged animal: he was fidgeting and moving back and forth in his seat and not particularly paying attention to what the judge was saying.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know how he supports himself or how he has been supporting himself in France?

WAKEMAN: Well, I know that his wife comes from a family with a great deal of money. I don't know if her parents, who are still alive are, with all of this publicity now and finding out what their son-in- law has done, if they are choosing to support them anymore.

COSSACK: Steve, there came a time when he left Ireland and went to France. How did they find him in France?

LEVY: Well, there was one person in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Richard Debenodetta (ph), who -- this case was his career. He never forgot about it and whenever he got some spare time, he would make some calls, do some checking and he followed where Einhorn went. He knew, by that point, that Einhorn had been living with his woman, who he married, named Annika Flodin, a Swedish citizen. And he was able to track down, at one point, her record and found that he -- she had a driver's license in France under the name of a person who turned out to be one of Einhorn's friends during his period in Ireland.

So, working from that, he found out where Einhorn lived and was actually able to capture him after 16 years of Einhorn's running.

VAN SUSTEREN: Meg, what's it like for the family for the last 10, 15 years while he's been on the run.

WAKEMAN: Well, it's been a great uncertainty. You want to forget about it and move on with your life, which, of course, you do do, but you don't forget about it because there's always the reminders of Holly and the reminders of the pain that our parents went through knowing that their first-born was so brutally murdered.

And, on the flip side of that, there's always been hope that there would be an answer at some point. And so in June '97, we were provided with part of that answer.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break. When Einhorn was arrested in France in 1997, authorities there refused to extradite him. Find out why and how U.S. investigators pursued him when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH HALL, MURDER VICTIM'S SISTER: This is not completely about the nuances of international law -- that there's a person behind all of this and she's dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: He certainly has the right, under the French system, to file an appeal and that appeal will have to work its way through the French system. It's our hope that, in the time that -- he's going to be released between the course of that appeal -- and it is our hope that steps will be taken to ensure that he does not flee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: Ira Einhorn was first arrested by French police in 1997, but the court in Bordeaux shocked U.S. authorities by refusing his extradition based on a French law. It required that he be retried. Einhorn had been convicted in absentia for the murder of Holly Maddux in Pennsylvania.

Jim, what is it -- why is it that we have been unable to get Ira Einhorn return to Pennsylvania for trial?

JIM FEINERMAN, COMPARATIVE LAW PROFESSOR: Well, first of all, the French feel very strongly about this idea of having an opportunity to represent yourself. It's a principle of our justice, too, but they feel that the process was fundamentally flawed that convicted him when he wasn't present, even though he was responsible for his own absence from the court then, as well as this antipathy to the death penalty, although that has been ruled out in this case because of the circumstances. He committed his crime before Pennsylvania had reestablished the death penalty.

VAN SUSTEREN: So how can they use that for a gripe as not to return him?

FEINERMAN: Well, the argument that his American lawyers have made and that the French lawyers have passed on to the French court is that the kind of promises that have been made aren't necessarily binding, that even though the Pennsylvania legislature made it possible for him to be retried in Pennsylvania, that the separation of powers in the United States makes it impossible for legislation to bind the court's hands and, once the case comes up in the Pennsylvania court system, the court can do anything it wants, de novo.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kenny, what is this trial of absentia? How can you try the case when the defendant's not there?

KENNY ROBINSON, DEFENSE LAWYER: Well, the law is allowed in this country. as I know it, that if you start a trial and the person is on notice that it will proceed in his absence, then his absence -- you go forward without it. But I can see where anybody would think that shouldn't apply for something as serious as first-degree murder. VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I mean, he has a constitutional right to be present at his own trial, but if he has voluntarily decided, look, I would rather than in France, the trial goes forward.

ROBINSON: Yes, it does. He could have benefited if somehow the evidence had disappeared and he could never have been found guilty if they found him, but I can see where the French court would think it's not fair to try anybody, even if they create the problem unless they have a right to confront your accusers and confront the evidence.

COSSACK: Jim, what do you think the chances are that he will be returned to Pennsylvania to face this trial?

FEINERMAN: I think they're pretty good, although it may be as much as two years before he is returned. He has two possibilities for appeal in the French court system, plus a personal appeal to the president of France, who is now (UNINTELLIGIBLE). This case will go up to the Court of Cacession (ph), which is the head -- sort of supreme court of the ordinary court system in France. Then it goes to the president. And from the president, it can finally be appealed to the state council, which is the highest administrative review body in France. And assuming all of them say he should be returned to the United States, that could take two years, and then he will go back to Pennsylvania.

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, he's still out on bond, what we would call bond here in the United States. He's free to do whatever he wants in France right now, right?

FEINERMAN: That's right. In France, it's very unusual, unlike the United States, even in capital cases, to hold prisoners without bail. And if the court determines that there's not a reasonable chance of flight, almost everybody is released either on very low bail or even sometimes on their own recognizances.

VAN SUSTEREN: How can you say, though, there's no likelihood of flight. I mean, he fled, you know, fled the United States. I mean, he had the grand flight, at least from our perspective.

FEINERMAN: Well, this is the French court's determination. Apparently, they feel that since he hasn't made an attempt to flee from the time he was discovered in France and has been part of the process there for these many months, that that's an indication that he is now willing to stay, even though he had 17 years of flight behavior beforehand.

VAN SUSTEREN: An argument Kenny and I (OFF-MIKE).

(LAUGHTER)

COSSACK: Can he run to another country and start all over again?

FEINERMAN: Oh, yes, and I think -- not that I would counsel this -- but he might be well advised to, in particular, to find some country that doesn't have an expedition treaty with the United States.

ROBINSON: That sounded like advising me with me. I think you're in the conspiracy. I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we take a break. Up next, if Einhorn is ever brought back to the states to face a new trial, what type of defense could his legal team present? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN Q&A)

Q: Why did Judge Paul Friedman handcuff a man to a chair in his Manhattan courtroom for 90 minutes?

A: The man's pager went off, violating Friedman's rules about noise in the courtroom.

(END Q&A)

VAN SUSTEREN: The goal of the victim's family, as well as U.S. authorities, is to have Ira Einhorn to returned to the United States to face a new trial. Holly Maddux was murdered 22 years ago, and the defendant's been on the run since 1981.

Kenny, you know, if the two of us were sitting and trying to figure out what to do for Ira Einhorn, he's got a big problem: he's got to abide in a closet for almost two years and then he takes off. Where are you going to start on this case if you you're the defense lawyer?

ROBINSON: He needs that family money to be there so he can build up as much nonsense as possible, psychologist showing the enormous pressure on him that made him flee despite him being innocent, roll all of that CIA theory that he's such a radical at the time -- it was '60s and '70s he tried to frame him with a murder...

VAN SUSTEREN: But wait a second. He tried to...

ROBINSON: ... and hope some jury is crazy enough to hang the jury.

VAN SUSTEREN: You say it tried to frame him. It's not as though the body just showed up some day in his body. It had been there some time, plus you have the odor that apparently neighbors were complaining about, so, I mean, you would have that the...

COSSACK: Hey, Greta, this is the easy part of this argument. The tough part is figuring out how to defend this guy. What would you say, Kenny, about the notion of where this body came from?

ROBINSON: I don't think he's going to have a chance to win this case. He's got to find some screwball on the jury, now, like on the O.J. case you had 12 screwball. But you get one or two and just keep getting hung juries and negotiate second degree someday.

I don't know if he can get life without. Even if he can't get the death penalty, he should be bound by what the sentence was when he committed this murder, and most states didn't have life without parole back then, so he's probably eligible for parole anyway if he gets found guilty of the murder. I'd look down that road and see how much time's left on some kind of a deal. I don't doubt that they'd give him a deal, though, if it's conduct.

VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, have they preserved the evidence, because if they've done away with the evidence, if they destroyed, Ira Einhorn may be in a much better position than we think?

LEVY: I think some of the evidence is in good shape. There -- some witnesses, like Holly's parents, aren't around any more. They're unfortunately deceased now, but the people who detected the odor are still around, and the -- I think they still kept, you know, all the dental records which identified her and other things like that, and the young woman who I found who in "The Unicorn's Secret" who said that Einhorn asked her to help get rid of the trunk the day after the murder is still around. So I think they have a pretty air-tight...

VAN SUSTEREN: Have they kept, like, the physical evidence like the trunk and items like that...

LEVI: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... because otherwise, you know, the defense, of course, will seize upon that.

LEVI: Right. It's my understanding they still have all that stuff.

ROBINSON The best evidence are these people available still that said he acted unusually weird when they would go near the closet, because that showed his knowledge, not having no sense of smell. I mean, I'm just curious about that.

LEVI: Right. There were a number of people like that who I found in my book. They didn't even need to bring that up in the first trial, they had such a strong case against him.

COSSACK: All right, that's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

VAN SUSTEREN: Join us again next week for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. We'll see you then.

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