Ira Einhorn’s long, strange trip

After two decades on the run from charges in a horrific murder, the counterculture icon is home and headed for trial. But in France, he's still a human rights hero.

Topics: Crime, Bill Clinton,

Ira Einhorn's long, strange trip

The man whom Philadelphia loves to hate greets me with a bear hug each time I make the trip to State Correctional Facility in Houtzdale, Pa., his home since his extradition from France last year to face a 25-year-old murder charge. After the months I’ve spent digesting the enormous literature devoted to him, it’s something of a surprise to find that the baby-boom Hannibal Lecter is a nervous person of 61, some 6 feet tall with a full head of white hair, trim in his orange prison-issue jumpsuit, attentive and anxious to please. But any doubt that this is Ira Einhorn, the famous ’60s icon and infamous international fugitive, is put to rest immediately by the pink scar still visible above his collar, a reminder of his last night in France, when he cut his throat in front of reporters. A chipped front tooth gives him his crooked smile, familiar from pictures. His eyes, which contain a nearly manic intensity in their shocking blue, are very hard to meet.

Part of their intensity is his well-known charisma: Einhorn is a famous leader of men and a seducer of women, casually laying claim to thousands of lovers, two or three a week for 20 years until meeting Annika Flodin, whom he would marry in 1987. Another part is that Einhorn, who convincingly claims to read a book a day, is amazingly intelligent, and he has few other visitors. Today he wants to talk about politics, physics, Buddhism, the economy, terrorism, ecology. He wants to tell me about Houellebecq, the French novelist du jour; about Jennifer Egans new novel; about Hardt and Negris popular left-wing history, “Empire,” and Naomi Kleins notoriously dense “No Logo” — unlike most American progressives, hes read and understood both.

The last thing he wants to discuss is the reason he’s in jail today, but when he does address it, it’s to deny absolutely, entirely, having killed Holly Maddux in 1977, some two years before he jumped bail and disappeared into a fugitive life that only ended last summer. “There’s no doubt that I ought to be executed for what I think,” he tells me, leaning across the table where we sit in the clean, well-appointed prison visiting room, his blue eyes holding mine hostage. “But not for what I did.”



Well, maybe. You won’t find many journalists who will agree: The coverage of Einhorn, both locally and nationally, has almost uniformly depicted him as at best as manipulative, at worst malign, and always guilty. All are plausible conclusions, given the evidence. Two separate Philadelphia juries have found him so, the first in Einhorn’s 1993 murder trial, held in absentia while he was a fugitive, the second in a civil trial which in 1999 awarded the victim’s family just shy of $1 billion in damages. In Philadelphia, hating Einhorn is a kind of blood sport. When in June 2000 the Philadelphia Daily News erected a billboard of Einhorn and invited readers to bring their rotten tomatoes to throw at it, the newspaper found takers. And when the Daily News printed handy fill-out-and-mail forms by which readers could send messages to Einhorn welcoming him home at the time of his extradition, some 300 took advantage of the opportunity, many offering shockingly obscene predictions of what awaited him in prison showers.

And there lies the central peculiarity of the Einhorn prosecution: Its very vigor, both in the press and in District Attorney Lynne Abraham’s office, very nearly set him free. His extradition pitted two equally passionate communities against each other, each fueled by identical outrage: one a moral certainty of his guilt, the other a moral horror at legal tactics the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania employed to bring him home. The latter group unites powerful, if unexpected, members: prominent Philadelphia lawyers and a community of French lawyers, activists, and members of parliament who strenuously opposed Einhorn’s extradition from France, forcing it to be ordered by then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin himself, and for whom Ira Einhorn has the status of a human rights hero on the level of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who recently was awarded honorary citizenship of Paris. And now that he is back at home, Einhorn’s murder trial next month will put these passions on stage in a way that threatens to overshadow the death of Holly Maddux, and opens the possibility that the long, strange trip of Ira Einhorn is not yet over.

If you lived in Philadelphia in the ’60s, you know who Einhorn was. Harbinger of the new age, ambassador of acid, Earth Day organizer, environmental activist, Free University founder and professor, Einhorn was “indisputably Philadelphia’s head hippie,” as the Village Voice put it, “its number one freak.” He was at home in the hot springs at California’s proto-New Age Esalen Institute and in radical chic circles on the East Coast. It’s hard fully to appreciate his influence from today’s perspective. Newspaper photographs show him in constant motion: addressing a sea of people on Earth Day, arguing passionately with police, clowning with Yippie leader Jerry Rubin, his peace-loving long beard and gap-toothed smile the picture of the age. That doesn’t quite do him justice. Having been a stellar, nearly legendary student at the University of Pennsylvania, he also had currency in the intellectual circles of the day, and in the corporate world, where he was much prized as a “far watcher” of technological trends. In 1977 he held a fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

The event that would transform Ira Einhorn went nearly unnoticed. When Holly Maddux, his delicately beautiful girlfriend of five years, disappeared in the fall of 1977, the transient college-based community around her and Einhorn paid little attention. He had been the important member of that couple, in any case, and his beautiful girlfriends were virtually interchangeable. When she failed to reappear, however, a closer scrutiny came Einhorn’s way. Slowly, during 1978, a private investigator hired by the Maddux family looked at Einhorn’s life, and as he looked, evidence came together like a charm. A downstairs neighbor told of liquid leaking from Einhorn’s apartment into their kitchen, a dark liquid with a terrible smell of putrefaction, and of hearing a “blood-curdling” scream and “several sharp thuds” around about the time of Holly’s disappearance. Presented, finally, to the police, this and other evidence won a search warrant on Ira Einhorn’s apartment. It was served on March 29, 1978, and police found Holly Maddux’s battered and partially mummified body in a trunk in the bedroom closet, packed in Styrofoam, air fresheners and newspapers.

Here now was an alternate narrative about Ira Einhorn, and it very quickly took hold, a narrative finally canonized by Stephen Levy, whose 1988 study “The Unicorn’s Secret: Murder in the Age of Aquarius,” drew on access to Einhorn’s diaries to conclude that Holly’s death was the final act in his established pattern of violent abuse of girlfriends. Einhorn’s status as a countercultural hero faded quickly: His publications were few; his activism grandstanding; his expertise followed a path steadily away from even the countercultural mainstream toward the far out — the paranormal, Uri Geller, Andre Puharich and the community of CIA mind-control conspiracy theorists, still very active today. Einhorn’s claim that Holly’s death stemmed from this activism — he insists to this day that Holly Maddux was killed by an intelligence agency, and her body planted in his bedroom, to silence his growing knowledge of the CIA’s use of the paranormal in military research — received little credence. And his generous humanism — Einhorn was consistently described by the many character witnesses at his bail hearing as a “man of love” — is mentioned much less than his priapism, his enormous sexual practice.

And any doubt as to Einhorn’s guilt was resolved for most Philadelphians by another event. With his trial scheduled for the early spring of 1981, Einhorn nearly effortlessly skipped the bail provided by his friend and supporter Barbara Bronfman and disappeared into Europe.

In 1993, 12 years after Einhorn’s flight, Philadelphia D.A. Lynne Abraham decided to bring him to trial in his absence, a rare legal procedure and the only in-absentia murder trial ever conducted in Philadelphia. Einhorn was represented by Norris Gelman, his lawyer at the time of his flight, who was obliged by the court to conduct the defense at his own expense. During a week in court, the leaking liquid, the smell of putrefaction, the scream, and other strong circumstantial evidence was put on trial. Gelman was able to demonstrate that the forensic evidence on which the prosecution hung its case was inconclusive; the prosecution was unable to prove that the putrefying liquid contained human protein, and therefore it was possible, at least in theory, that Holly’s body was planted in Einhorn’s closet. The jury nevertheless took only two hours to convict him of first degree murder and sentence him to life imprisonment. His flight from justice made their decision that much easier.

On the morning of June 13, 1997, acting on information compiled by dogged Philadelphia Police investigator Rich Debenedetto, French police stormed a converted millhouse outside Champagne Mouton, a tiny village in a rolling portion of the French countryside next to Cognac. Naked in his bed was Mr. Eugene Mallon, a resident American writer who lived quietly with his beautiful Swedish wife. It is not hard to imagine the scene: the kind summer air through the window, the early morning still, and Mr. Mallon’s rude awakening to arrest as Ira Einhorn.

At 4 o’clock in the morning, in Philadelphia, Norris Gelman was awakened by the telephone. “I got a call from Annika,” he recalls. “I remember it well. She said, ‘They stormed the house like stormtroopers!’ And I said, ‘Who are you?’ I’d never heard of her and I had no idea who she was. I said, ‘Who was taken away?’ She says, ‘Ira Einhorn.’”

Gelman is a rotund man with a youthful face and a full head of curly hair. Educated at University of Pennsylvania and versed in left-wing intellectual terms, he runs a practice that includes mobsters and murderers, the appealing mix of high principles and low crimes that defines criminal lawyers. It’s a mixture that everywhere informs Gelman’s persona, such as his frequent conversational reference to his mother and his taste for the races. Pictures of the horses he owns, as well as a wealth of other track memorabilia, some verging on kitsch, fill his office. When he remembers Einhorn back in the day, it is with admiration, as for a free-thinking, brilliant professor. Many in the Einhorn camp share this admiration, in apparent disregard of the enormous evidence that this charismatic, compelling man may have committed a horrific murder.

In a day or two, Gelman called Annika Flodin — who prefers to be addressed as Annika Einhorn — back, and the news he had for her was surprising. “I told her, ‘You tell Ira we’re going to fight like hell. We got a case here and Ira’s not coming back so fast.”

It was the in-absentia conviction won by Lynne Abraham in 1993 that, ironically, protected Einhorn under French Law. Gelman quickly realized that France would not return Einhorn; the French, like all European governments except Spain, require an in-absentia conviction to be retried when the prisoner is captured, whereas Pennsylvania law allowed Einhorn to be sentenced, in absentia, to life without recourse to a new trial.

An in-absentia trial is the “mark of the totalitarian government,” Gelman says. “To my mind it was a blatant crushing of all of his rights. Everything rang hollow. The defendant is presumed innocent. Well, of course, the defendant isn’t there, he ran away. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt? Well, proof is, he ran away. It eviscerated the right to a fair and impartial trial.” Working with Gelman and Theodore Simon, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer with significant foreign experience, Annika Einhorn retained two French lawyers: Dominique Tricaud, a Parisian, with Dominique Delthil acting as local counsel in Bordeaux, where Einhorn had by now been jailed some 100 miles from his house in Champagne Mouton.

The two Dominiques, as they came to be known, had other roles that qualified them for the case. Tricaud is Paris head of Helsinki Watch, the international human rights organization. And Delthil heads the Bordeaux office of the influential organization founded in 1898 at the time of the Dreyfus trial, the League of Human Rights.

In six months’ time, Pennsylvanians witnessed the unbelievable sight of Ira Einhorn leaving prison in Bordeaux into the arms of his waiting wife, his extradition from France having been refused on the grounds that Pennsylvania’s in-absentia conviction, with no chance of a new trial, violated French law requiring a new trial after the capture of the prisoner.

Just six days later, a new law passed in Pennsylvania. Under the law, any American fugitive caught in a country where extradition is denied on account of a previous in-absentia conviction may, when returned to the United States, be guaranteed a new trial. And this law was going, it seemed, to be applied retroactively to Einhorn. The Einhorn Law, like the in-absentia trial, had an unintended consequence in France. What had been, until then, a question of criminal law, became a human rights cause.

On the way from the Champs Elysies to Xavier de Roux’s offices in the enormous international firm Conseil Generale de Charente-Maritime, just next to the Seine on the Right Bank, you pass a huge statue of Charles de Gaulle, inscribed with the quote:

“There is a pact, twenty centuries old, between the greatness of France and the liberty of the world.”

It’s an astonishing statement to read, here, right next to the Avenues FDR and General Eisenhower, a couple of the Americans without whom Paris might well be a provincial capital of Greater Nazi Germany today. It speaks volumes about the French, not all of it good. One thing it fairly reflects, however, is the pride the French take at their jurisprudence — easily as much as they do in their wine.

Xavier de Roux is a deeply conservative politician who has served both as mayor of his provincial town and as a member in the French Parliament, a lawyer of enormous power. De Roux is a white-haired man, perhaps 60, with the attitude of nearly self-effacing politeness that, in France, signifies great authority. He sits at his ease in a corner office over the Seine, some of the most valuable office space in the world, describing why he lent his support to a left-wing community gathering around Einhorn. “As a lawyer, I believe in the presumption of innocence,” he explains. “And not only in a theoretical way, because, after having spoken to Einhorn … the horrible crime of which he’s accused does not seem to coincide with his personality. I say this so strongly because I have real difficulty — I tell you this quite frankly — in imagining Monseiur Einhorn in the skin of a murderer. Anything can happen. I don’t pretend to know the truth. But a priori — and here we are in the presumption of innocence — I believe him to be innocent.”

Pennsylvania’s Einhorn Law, as it came to be known, raised new questions for de Roux. “[It] was clearly made not for a general case,” he explains, “but clearly in order to obtain the extradition of Ira Einhorn. For any jurist in a legally constituted country, to pass a law for a specific interest and a specific case is not, let’s face it, a very good way to pass laws. And so there were quite a few French lawyers who said, ‘Well, what’s going on here?’”

It was a question that particularly bothered Dominique Delthil, whose Bordeaux office wall displays a photograph of Einhorn recoiling in fright while Delthil, nearly animal with rage, defends him from the approach of an American journalist. Now, he speaks with high indignation. “To insist, at any price, on creating a special law, when the law by its principals must be general! In legal terms, it is absolutely scandalous! I understand how the family feels, but when the state lets itself be manipulated in this way by private interest to create such scandalous laws, it shocked me. I still can’t get over it. I never would have thought that this could have existed in a democratic country.”

When, therefore, the Bordeaux court met again in February of 1998 to consider the extradition anew in the light of the Einhorn Law, there were no great worries in the Einhorn camp. As Ted Simon advised them from Philadelphia, the law was transparently unconstitutional, and could likely be overturned in the state Supreme Court, thereby voiding the terms of the extradition agreement. Nor was Simon alone in his views.

“In this country there are three branches in our government: There’s the legislative, the judicial and the executive. Now, the legislative branch has absolutely no power, under any circumstances, to pass a law that says any defendant is entitled to a new trial.” F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, a former Philadelphia district attorney, patiently describes the principle of separation of powers, all the while giving the distinct impression that patience is not his strong suit. “Whether a defendant is entitled to a new trial or not depends solely on the judicial branch … Now what happened here was, apparently the prosecution went to the Legislature and said, ‘We want a law enacted that says if we try someone in absentia, for reasons that they never really set forth, that that person can ask for a new trial.’ And so there was legislation passed that said that.” (Last winter, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court declined to hear the issue of the Einhorn Law. While pretrial motions by Einhorn’s public defense lawyers, filed this month, called for the trial to be halted on the grounds of the Einhorn Law’s unconstitutionality, it is still far from certain who may have standing to bring this issue back to the Supreme Court.)

But whereas the Bordeaux court had been clearly willing to allow Einhorn to go free based on the in-absentia conviction, now it hesitated. To judge the constitutionality of an American law in France seemed an entirely different matter, one to be made, in France, by the executive branch, not the judicial. Unwilling, ultimately, to question internal American constitutional issues, the Bordeaux judges lifted their ban on the extradition, allowing it to enter the appeals process.

It was now that Annika Einhorn got to work.

Visiting the Einhorns’ countryside house some 200 miles southeast of Paris in the rolling hills next to Cognac is like walking into the world of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, an American murderer who lives in bourgeois splendor just outside of Paris.

On one level, everything is normal. Annika Einhorn is a poised, pretty woman with long red hair, living alone with a black dog, Frieda, to whom she speaks in high pitched Swedish, running her house and caring for its grounds with quiet confidence. Wherever you go with her in the minuscule village of Champagne Mouton, townsfolk inquire after Monsieur Einhorn and express outrage at his treatment, and in their partisanship you feel their attachment to Mrs. Einhorn as much as their concern with her husband. Like her husband’s, her frame of reference covers the familiar ground of an ecologically conscious, politically aware, left-wing European intellectual, although in Annika’s case there is also the therapeutic and Buddhist-inspired vocabulary of the consciousness movement.

But on another level, as in Highsmith’s chilling world, there is something slightly sinister. The fact is that some 15 years ago this sensible, competent, charming woman stepped entirely out of the path of her life: abandoned not just her family and her past but her very identity to join Einhorn in a dangerous and difficult life underground, and she did this in the full knowledge that he was on the run from charges of murdering his girlfriend. Nothing visible in the house spoke of childhood or family, and an aura of rootlesness, of disconnection permeated the household.

One would expect, then, rather an impressionable person, one with, perhaps, the frailty so often ascribed to Holly Maddux. In fact, however, the picture is considerably harder to explain. Mrs. Einhorn is no jail widow. Unwilling to risk possible arrest for aiding an American fugitive, and with Einhorn’s lawyers unable to win a guarantee of immunity from prosecutor Joel Rosen, she has so far refused to testify in person at her husband’s trial. She has declined to sell the Moulin de Guitry — her single asset — in order to pay for Norris Gelman’s services, leaving her husband to public defense lawyers. Her opinions about her husband are open-eyed, neutral, and well articulated. She describes her years of marriage as a steady growth toward autonomy — precisely, in an eerie way, the growth that Holly Maddux is depicted as achieving in the year before her death. That makes it all the more shocking, the irony that on a certain level, Mrs. Einhorn is both responsible for her husband’s capture — it was the use of her real name in a French driver’s license application that led to their discovery — and, now, key to his defense.

“Honestly Neil, I cannot say that I know if Ira killed or did not kill Holly.” Talking across a bare wood table in her cozy, homespun, and eerie living room, Annika Einhorn explains what it is like to live with a suspected murderer. “What I’m saying is that the picture that has been presented of Ira as the murderer of Holly is not a picture that matches my picture of Ira, the person I lived with. He’s not even near this impression. No physical violence, no physical abuse, all these things that he’s consecutively presented with … My feeling has always been that Ira is innocent. That has been a feeling and also a feeling that I’ve analyzed analytically by exposing him to questions so that I’ve also convinced myself intellectually.”

When following the passage in Pennsylvania of the Einhorn Law, the Philadelphia D.A.’s office presented France with a new extradition request, Annika Einhorn found herself in the new role of activist — a role to which, time would show, she was well suited. Soon, in addition to her lawyers, she had enrolled a wide spectrum of the French human rights establishment: members of the French government and of the European Parliament; Socialist, Communist, and Green Party delegates; the League of Human Rights, the influential human rights group S.O.S. Racisme. And as the extradition evolved from a legal to a political issue, so did the field of attack widen and the affaire Einhorn took on an increasingly political nature.

On Dec. 1, 1999, District Attorney Lynne Abraham wrote to then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright requesting her intervention, expressing high indignation that Einhorn remained free, “cavorting in the nude” for an Esquire photographer, “free on bail, eating strawberries and blaming the CIA for Holly’s murder.” Albright complied.

In equal measure, throughout France, human rights advocates gave their support to Einhorn. Fodi Sylla, a founder of the enormously influential S.O.S. Racisme, lamented the “climate of hysteria … [the] Sacco and Vanzetti climate around Ira.” League of Human Rights president Michel Tubiana focused on the role of Lynne Abraham. “The personal conduct of the Philadelphia D.A. was absolutely mind-blowing,” he says. “This woman, if she’d had an equivalent position in France and behaved like that, she would have been fired. So already, how could we think of extraditing anyone in this context, in the middle of this hysteria?

French supporters saw the question of Einhorn’s guilt as a far lesser concern than the legal issues of his extradition. Again and again, lawyers and politicians bluntly described their lack of concern with Einhorn’s guilt or the evidence against him, turning the question instead to the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans in U.S. prisons, to the death penalty, to the strong conviction that the American press had judged Einhorn guilty before trial, to the constant worry that a fair trial for Einhorn, given his countercultural activity in the ’60s, was impossible.

For many Americans, the French reaction was outrageous — and given the overwhelming evidence of Einhorn’s guilt, it was proof of both Einhorn’s extraordinary powers of manipulation and of anti-Americanism in France. Buffy Hall, Holly Maddux’s sister, long committed to bringing Einhorn to justice, described Annika Einhorn as “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial.” Lynne Abraham’s office, citing the pending trial, declined to be interviewed for this article. But in a published statement, Abraham made her feelings clear. “The truth is this,” she said: “He is getting away with murder, and I am incensed, offended, outraged.”

Notwithstanding the support for Einhorn, successive appeals courts in France were declining to stop the extradition, and as they did, the decision wound its way closer and closer to Prime Minister Jospins desk, a purely political decision, not unlike a presidential pardon or commutation in America. And as it did, the movement to stop Einhorns extradition steadily gained political momentum. The enormously popular and influential Jack Lang — at the time chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the National Assembly, wrote to Jospin that because the Einhorn Law “could fail to be applied by American judges who thought it unconstitutional… Einhorns in absentia conviction could stand, which would be in total contradiction of the fundamental principles of French law, as well as with the European Convention of Human Rights.”

In May 2000, a petition was delivered to Jospin calling for him to block the extradition of Ira Einhorn. Among the 94 prominent signatories were 14 European deputies and 19 members of the Regional Counsel, as well as several French cabinet ministers.

In the end, in the midsummer of 2001, after over a years delay and four years since Einhorns original arrest in France, Jospin signed the extradition order. According to Noel Mamhre, a former presidential candidate for the French Green Party, Jospin resisted enormous pressure but finally gave in after President Bill Clinton personally intervened.

Claire Wacquet, a powerful lawyer whose youth and casual language belie her extremely high status — she appears before the final appeals courts in France, and her office sits just down the Seine from the Assemblie Nationale — argued the final appeal before the Conseil dEtat and the European court of Human Rights. “I explained that this law giving a new trial in reality was not constitutionally sound, either in Pennsylvania or in the U.S.A…. I argued that in the constitutional system of the U.S.A., this famous law called the Einhorn Law could very well fail to be applied.”

Wacquet shrugged and smiled. “And the Conseil dEtat said to me, Well, we dont care and we dont want to hear about it.”

“What happened here was France just caved in,” Emmett Fitzpatrick says with blunt disdain. “They said, ‘Okay, fine, thats alright, if youre going to give him a new trial, well send him back.’ That happens all the time, that people will cave in, although theyre for these general principles that they fight so hard to maintain.”

In mid-July 2001, Einhorn provided reporters with a dramatic illustration of what he thought Jospin had done to him: He slit his throat with a kitchen knife, leaving the scars that I recognized when I met him in Pennsylvania jail. On July 19th, neck swaddled with bandages, Ira Einhorn returned to America for the first time in 23 years, escorted by U.S. marshals.

“It was good to see Ira finally show terror,” said an editorial headline in the Philadelphia Daily News under a “For Holly” logo. “After 20 years Einhorns Back, ran an earlier headline. “And the Worlds a Better Place.”

Ira Einhorn’s universe is now a simple, clean construction with high windows and the peaceful air of a smoothly running workplace. The prison guards are polite and respectful and a pleasant, clean visiting room is available. During visiting hours a prisoner is always on duty to take Polaroids of inmates with their families standing in front of a screen with a couple of choices of bucolic countryside backdrops.

Einhorn drinks Dr. Peppers and eats the healthiest sandwiches available from the vending machines while talking virtually without a pause. Watching him eat — my appetite disappears the moment I enter the prison, and a heavy sense of oppression lies over me until I’ve put it well behind me on the highway back home — I try to reconcile the image of Holly Maddux’s death by battering with the eloquent idealist in front of me.

Only the blue eyes, with their peculiar intensity, bridge the gap. Watching them, again and again, I have to remind myself that the man before me is presumed innocent by law, and that, despite the overwhelming circumstantial evidence, no one but he — and, if he is innocent, Hollys actual murderer — knows the truth.

It’s not easy, sitting in Houtzdale before a man who may once have stood face to face, as forensic evidence showed that the murderer did, with Holly Maddux and beat her with enough force to fracture her skull in six places. It’s not easy at all, and I soon came to dread my visits to Houtzdale, which seemed punishments in their own right.

Certainly, for the Philadelphia D.A.’s office, for the Maddux family, and for the enormous preponderance of Philadelphians who have for decades been outraged by Einhorn’s flight, anything other than a conviction, next month, will be an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

But for Ira Einhorn and those who have lent their support to him, a perfect continuity unites his first incarnation as Philadelphia’s entry into the countercultural pantheon with his life as a human rights hero in France.

Certainly the strange legal corner into which the Ira Einhorn case has strayed seems to have no fair way out: On one hand, the guilty may go free; on the other, the Constitution may be abused. It’s a terrifying thing to witness, when the legal system offers only two injustices as a response to a tragic murder.

But does anyone remember what Gideon and Miranda, who lent their names to crucial legal protections, were actually accused of? It’s possible that the future will remember the constitutional implications of Ira Einhorn’s case more than the crime, which in itself is a terrible kind of injustice.

One afternoon in Philadelphia I asked Gelman: What of Holly Maddux’s family — neither powerful, nor rich, nor on the cutting edge of an intellectual tradition, just Americans, the people whom the Constitution is there to protect? Gelman paused before the question, clearly a key one for any criminal lawyer, and answered: “[T]he Constitution does not say that everybody who commits a crime will go to jail. It doesn’t say that. The Constitution does say that if you’re accused of a crime, you’re entitled to a lawyer and jury, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, presumption of innocence. That’s the way the Constitution is written.

“As you would expect,” he added, as if an afterthought, “having been written by revolutionaries who were accused by the Crown of various and sundry offenses.”

Neil Gordon is a writer and editor living in New York. His novel "The Sea of Green" (Viking) will be published next year.

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