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Ira Einhorn Trial: 1993

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 SecretMurderintheAgeofAquariusNewYork: Prentice Hall Press, 1988.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Ira Einhorn Trial: 1993 - An Abusive Relationship Leads To Murder, Defendant Flees The Country, A Trial Without The Defendant Present