And Justice For All

Twenty-five years and 37 days after Ira Einhorn crushed Holly Maddux's skull and stuffed her in a trunk, the former hippie boulevardier, with his hair shorn now and decked in a clubby blue blazer, sat next to his lawyer to hear his fate. The suspense wasn't exactly overwhelming. As his lawyer, William Cannon, later explained, it's tough to defend a client when his former girlfriend is discovered in mummified form in his closet 18 months after her disappearance. That job is tougher still when the jury learns that your client almost murdered two other women under similar circumstances--they wanted to leave him, he didn't want them to leave unharmed.

And when excerpts from your client's personal diary actually celebrate such assaults ("Violence always marks the end of a relationship...." ), well, you do the best you can.

Nonetheless on Thursday, Oct. 17, Room 305, in the city court building across the street from Philadelphia's City Hall, was brimming with drama. Seated in the front row were Holly Maddux's four siblings, who had been impatiently pursuing justice for decades. Alongside them was Einhorn's Inspector Javert, former extraditions officer Richard DiBenedetto, who had been hunting the fugitive for 17 years. The courtroom was packed with national and local media: in Philadelphia, Einhorn was a reviled figure, most graphically in the Daily News, the tabloid, which once held a contest where citizens could pitch tomatoes at his picture. Less obvious, but certainly present, were the heady themes of a failed counterculture idealism and an inability to effectively deal with domestic violence.

I, too, had a role in this circus. As the author of the only book on the case, "The Unicorn's Secret," I'd spent the mid-1980s interviewing more than 250 sources in an attempt to piece together not only Einhorn's astonishing story but the tragic biography of Holly Maddux. She was a smart and stunning young Texan who got whacked by the '60s and was just pulling herself together when she was literally whacked by her burly boyfriend, a predatory misogynist in pacifist garb. Reading accounts of the trial--which I did not attend, concerned that my book would itself become an issue in the case--reintroduced me to many of those sources, from the friends who saw Holly's bruises after fights with Einhorn, to some of the wackier counterculture personages of the time. I was sorry to have missed the testimony of Einhorn himself, especially when he was forced to read those damning journal entries that I had first revealed in my book.

Earlier that morning, the scene had been more relaxed, as observers in the four-week case awaited the jury's conclusion. Deliberations had begun late the previous afternoon and broken after an hour. Most people figured that a verdict would come before lunch. At one point the bailiff distributed souvenirs to the media: the laminated Commonwealth v. Einhorn press badges that assured them seats. "I don't want to see this up for sale on eBay," he growled.

The prosecutor, Joel Rosen, was confident: "It was a great case," he later said of his evidence. But while he felt that the odds were a thousand to one in his favor, he still fretted that Einhorn--a lifelong beneficiary of long odds--might hit the jackpot once more. After all, who would have thought that after Einhorn's 1997 capture in France, he would successfully fight extradition, at least until the state of Pennsylvania passed a law allowing a new trial (the previous one, in 1993, had been held without Einhorn's participation)?

At a little before 11, the bailiff called out, "We have a verdict," and the one chance in a thousand that Ira Einhorn would be spared stretched to one in a million. An early verdict would certainly mean not only a quick conclusion of guilt, but that the verdict would be on the prosecution's requested first-degree-murder count. (The judge had given them the option of less-serious third-degree murder.)

The courtroom filled up quickly and included District Attorney Lynne Abraham and her retinue. Finally, Einhorn himself entered from a side exit. He sat next to his lead attorney, William Cannon, at the defense table, and ignored the crowd behind him, breezily chatting with Cannon as if the two were about to watch a Sixers game. The jury filed in--stone-faced. Judge Joseph Mazzola sternly directed any vocal outbursts at the verdict to be kept outside. Then he called on the jury forewoman, a city-employed biologist named Diane Green, to read the verdict.

"Guilty," she said, "of murder in the first degree."

No outbursts. The Madduxes beamed and clenched hands. Einhorn was motionless, and apparently emotionless. As the jurors were polled individually, some observers thought they saw Einhorn blinking steadily, as if fighting tears. (The one time he did get weepy during the trial was on the stand, invoking the memory of Holly Maddux. Jury members would say that they thought the crying was, like the rest of his testimony: as phony as an oregano joint.)

Since first-degree murder dictates a mandatory penalty of life in prison, Judge Mazzola said he would sentence Einhorn on the spot. First, however, the victim's family would have a word. Meg Maddux Wakeman, who bears a strong resemblance to Einhorn's victim, stood up and spoke lovingly of an older sister whose care toward her siblings was still remembered and cherished. I'd known Meg for almost 20 years now and thought her statement reflected the family's demeanor throughout the trial: intensely focused on justice and transparently contemptuous of the defendant, but imbued with dignity.

Then Einhorn himself was offered a chance to speak. His lawyer informed the court that since the sentence was predetermined, the defendant would withhold his opinions until the appeals process. Not surprisingly, this refusal courted endless remarks about how this was the first time the verbose egotist ever turned down an opportunity to mouth off.

Judge Mazzola, however, took full advantage of his opportunity to hold forth. Before he proclaimed the sentence, he unleashed a merciless assessment of Ira Einhorn's personality. (Of the crime itself, he told me, the jury's verdict had said it all.) It was an attack directed to the center of Ira Einhorn's vanity. Einhorn's inflated sense of importance dominated his testimony, which was a pitiful attempt to imply that his interest in Russian mind-control weapons somehow led his enemies to kill Holly and plant her body in his apartment, just to discredit him. Einhorn, charged the judge, was "an intellectual dilettante who preyed on uninitiated, uninformed, unsuspecting and inexperienced people." There was more. "I see in front of me," the judge continued, "nothing more than a pseudoclassicist who would drape himself in the trappings of eccentricities or abnormal lifestyle or behavior or activities, hoping somehow he could be identified with legitimate authors who have an eccentric lifestyle: the James Joyces, the Jack Kerouacs, the F. Scott Fitzgeralds, the J. D. Salingers ... He's the type of person who would feign special understanding of complex issues. The type of person I think I would describe as someone who would buy a book and read the first and last chapters of the book and feign a special understanding." This must have been particularly galling for the defendant to hear, since Einhorn has since adolescence prided himself on his omnivorous intelligence.

And then the judge sentenced Ira Einhorn to jail for the rest of his natural life.

Afterward, all the participants save the defendant made their comments at a makeshift podium stuffed with about 20 microphones. The Maddux family, of course, was jubilant. "The blight on our family that was Ira Einhorn has been erased," said her other sister Buffie Hall, who also said she hoped that Einhorn would have a long life "ended by a lingering illness." The assistant D.A. assisting Joel Rosen, Carmine Lineberger, spoke of how personally offended she was of Einhorn's violence toward women--scratch off his pacifist veneer and what you get is a garden-variety abuser of women. D.A. Lynne Abraham proclaimed that "Justice delayed is not necessarily justice denied." She also noted that "Ira Einhorn and his Virgo moon are toast."

Rosen, standing behind the Madduxes, quietly remarked, "It doesn't get better than this."

Privately, some of the exchanges were more deeply emotional. I was talking to Einhorn's lawyer William Cannon--I was surprised when he said he'd like me to autograph his copy of "The Unicorn's Secret"--when Holly's brother John passed by. Cannon called him over. "I'm sorry for what Philadelphia became to your sister, for what happened to her here," Cannon said. "She was a beautiful person, and I was very sorry I never got to meet her." John was born a year after Holly and she had been his protector and his idol. When he'd been in Vietnam, Holly, though a pacifist, wrote him often and was his lifeline. No one had taken her death harder. "I understand you did what you had to do," said John, "I don't hold it against you."

When Cannon came before the cameras, though, he spoke of the upcoming appeal. The No. 1 issue, he said, would be the introduction in the trial of the earlier women Einhorn had assaulted, along with the diary entries that were "daggers to our case." Those appeals are long shots--Pennsylvania jurists will be loathe to consider Cannon's trial-related objections. I actually think that Einhorn has a better chance in challenging the state law passed to grease his extradition from France on the grounds that it's a legislative intrusion on the judicial system. But that won't spring him. Overturning the law would then restore the 1993 guilty verdict--for which his appeals have long past expired. Einhorn's attorney would then argue that the extradition from France itself was unlawful, but in fact, the U.S. delivered on every promise it made to France in order to get its fugitive returned: another trial and no death penalty. (The latter was a moot issue since in September 1977 there was no capital punishment in the state.)

The biggest commotion came when the jurors appeared, some of them eager to make statements, others intent on expressing their best wishes to the Madduxes. One juror called Einhorn a megalomaniac, another said Einhorn "thought he was God." One juror called out to Mary, the youngest Maddux, "Bless your family. She can now rest in peace."

Finally, the television cameras were disconnected, and the crowd outside the courtroom dispersed. The Madduxes, the prosecutors, Rich DiBenedetto and I went down the street for a quiet lunch. I had a gift for the Madduxes, something I'd been lent during the research of my book and had only recently rediscovered, figuring that today would be the occasion to return it. It was a collection of school assignments completed in 1960 by their older sister. One paper in particular had, under the circumstances, an eerie poignance: a list of the prime numbers under 300, carefully arranged into three columns of painstakingly rendered integers, with her handwritten signature on the top of the page: Holly Maddux. She would have been 55 this year. I, too, was sorry I never got to meet her.