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Killer loses a decision, then wins one

SHARE Killer loses a decision, then wins one

CHAMPAGNE-MOUTON, France — For a few hours, it looked as if the long arm of the law had finally caught up with Ira Einhorn.

Convicted in absentia of murdering his girlfriend more than two decades ago, Einhorn on Thursday lost his last appeal under French law to stop his extradition to the United States.

But shortly after the decision — which prompted the 61-year-old former hippie to slit his throat in an apparent suicide attempt — his lawyers scored an important victory.

France agreed to delay his extradition for a week at the request of the European Court of Human Rights, while the panel looks at the case.

"This is a great joy after all that's happened today," said lawyer Dominique Tricaud.

A French TV crew invited to interview Einhorn on Thursday found him sitting in the kitchen of his ivy-covered, converted windmill home, blood soaking his shirt, an open wound at the base of his neck. A doctor bandaged the wound only after Einhorn had given his interview, in which he railed against Prime Minister Lionel Jospin for his predicament.

"He created this. He is responsible." Einhorn said, pointing to his wound. "He is sending me back to America, where I will stay for the rest of my life in prison, without mercy."

Einhorn then climbed into an ambulance unassisted, and was taken to a hospital in nearby Angouleme.

About two hours earlier, authorities in Paris had announced that Einhorn had lost his last appeal under French law and would be extradited to Pennsylvania.

The decision by the Council of State, France's highest administrative body, meant Einhorn could be immediately arrested. France had no legal obligation to halt the extradition for such an appeal, but agreed later Thursday to the one-week postponement, the Justice Ministry said in Paris.

"We are going to follow the request of the court," said Charles Malinas, a Justice Ministry official. "He is going to stay in France until July 19."

The European court told the French government it was "advisable" to postpone the extradition for a week so it could look into the case. It asked the government to inform the court about Einhorn's health.

In Washington, U.S. authorities said they were disappointed with the delay of Einhorn's return.

"We are continuing to work with our French counterparts regarding the next step in this case," said Chris Watney, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman.

Einhorn fled the United States in 1981, soon before he was to stand trial in Pennsylvania for the 1977 bludgeoning death of his girlfriend, Holly Maddux. Her corpse was found stuffed in a trunk inside a closet of the Philadelphia apartment she shared with Einhorn.

In 1993, Einhorn was sentenced in absentia to life in prison. The United States made its initial request for extradition in 1997, after police tracked him to Champagne-Mouton.

Einhorn has denied killing Maddux, saying that the charges stemmed from a government conspiracy against him.

Maddux's sister, Elizabeth "Buffy" Hall, reacted angrily to the delay in Einhorn's extradition, saying she did not believe the European Court of Human Rights had the right to intervene.

"Einhorn is not a victim of human rights abuses," she said. "If anyone was, it was my sister."

Einhorn was back home with his wife Thursday evening in the southwestern village of Bordeaux, and armed police surrounded their cottage, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in Friday's edition.

Annika Flodin-Einhorn, who briefly answered the door, said her husband was too tired to talk to a reporter. "He is very tired," she said.

The case has taken many legal turns over the years. France does not extradite foreign nationals based on trials in absentia. It also refuses to extradite people to countries where they could face the death penalty.

But a 1998 Pennsylvania law provided for a retrial, and U.S. officials promised that Einhorn would not be eligible for the death penalty because capital punishment was not legal in Pennsylvania at the time of the crime.

Last October, Jospin refused to reconsider Einhorn's extradition, which he had approved three months earlier. Einhorn then filed his last-chance appeal with the Council of State, which is an administrative body that reviews cases for procedural problems. Its members are not judges.