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[U] Commonwealth v. Einhorn

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 21, 2014

IRA S. EINHORN, Appellant


Appeal from the PCRA Order of December 7, 2011 In the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-51-CR-0412961-1979




Appellant, Ira S. Einhorn, appeals from an order entered on December 7, 2011 in the Criminal Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County that denied his petition filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-9546. We affirm.[1]

We have previously summarized the facts in this case as follows:

In 1972, [Appellant] and his girlfriend at the time, Helen "Holly" Maddux, shared an apartment in the City of Philadelphia. By September 1977, the relationship between [Appellant] and Maddux was over and Maddux was residing in New York. About that time, Maddux received a telephone call from [Appellant] wherein he threatened to throw away Maddux's belongings that remained in his apartment unless she returned to Philadelphia to see him. As a result, on September 10, 1977, Maddux made a trip to Philadelphia, and joined [Appellant] with another couple for a movie that evening. Thereafter, Paul Herre, who rented the apartment directly below [Appellant's] apartment, recalled hearing a woman's screams and repeated loud thumps, which he thought originated from [Appellant's] apartment. Maddux was never again seen or heard from by her friends or family.
In late September 1977, residents and visitors of [Appellant's] apartment building began to complain of a rancid odor emanating from [Appellant's] apartment. Visitors described the odor as that of decaying flesh. Herre, in the apartment below [Appellant's], noticed a brown, sticky liquid seeping from [Appellant's] apartment into a pantry in his unit. The landlord, Norman Lerner, hired a roofer to investigate the source of the smell and the liquid seepage, and the roofer determined that the problem was most likely caused by a dead animal. The roofer isolated the source of the smell and seepage as a closet in the rear of [Appellant's] apartment, but [Appellant] refused to allow the roofer to enter the closet, which was secured with a large padlock.
Meanwhile, Maddux's friends and family, who had not heard from her, contacted [Appellant] to ask whether he knew of Maddux's whereabouts. [Appellant] stated that she was traveling, and claimed that he had not heard from Maddux. Adding to the suspicion regarding [Appellant's] involvement with Maddux's disappearance was an intriguing piece of information discovered by investigating police officers: Towards the end of 1978, [Appellant] attempted to purchase a book on mummification, but the owner of the bookstore was unable to locate the requested book.
On March 28, 1979, pursuant to a search warrant, police entered [Appellant's] home, where they proceeded directly to the rear closet. The police officers pried off the padlock on the closet while [Appellant] silently watched from several feet away. The closet was filled with boxes, mostly containing Maddux's personal items, as well as a locked steamer trunk which showed significant evidence of decay and fluid damage. The officers pried off the lock to the trunk and opened the lid, and were immediately struck by a strong smell of decay. Inside the trunk were the remains of Maddux, buried beneath layers of air fresheners, plastic bags, foam peanuts, newspapers, insects, and larvae. The keys to the padlock securing the closet door, as well as the keys to the steamer trunk, were hanging from a hook in the hallway of [Appellant's] apartment.
[Appellant] was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. An autopsy revealed that Maddux had been killed by craniocerebral injuries resulting from six fractures to her face, forehead, eye sockets, and jaw, all resulting from being hit with a heavy object with great force. In April 1979, [Appellant] petitioned the court for release on bail, which was subsequently granted in early May 1979. [Appellant] posted security in the amount of $40,000.00 and was released. By June 1979, the pre-trial motion and discovery processes were underway, and continued through the end of December 1980.
In early January 1981, [Appellant] fled the United States prior to a court-ordered appearance set to schedule a trial date. On January 14, 1981, a bench warrant was issued for [Appellant's] arrest, bail was revoked, and the case was listed for trial to begin on January 21, 1981. On that date, with the bench warrant outstanding, the Honorable Paul Ribner re-listed the case for trial in thirty days with [Appellant on] fugitive status. The case remained in that posture until early 1993.
On March 9, 1993, the Commonwealth filed a petition for a trial in absentia pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 1117, now renumbered as Rule 602, which provides that a "defendant's absence without cause shall not preclude proceeding with the trial including the return of the verdict and the imposition of sentence." Pa.R.Crim.P., Rule 602(A), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat.Ann. On April 15, 1993, the Honorable Juanita Kidd Stout granted the Commonwealth's petition and ordered that [Appellant] be tried in absentia. After permitting the defense additional time for preparation, on September 13, 1993, jury selection began and was completed two days later. Following a two week trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder. On September 29, 1993, [Appellant] was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia.
[Appellant's] counsel filed timely post-trial motions, arguing that [Appellant's] trial in absentia violated both the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. The post-trial motions were denied on June 7, 1994, and on September 22, 1994, with [Appellant's] whereabouts unknown, the timely appeal filed on his behalf was quashed.
In June 1997, [Appellant] was located living in southern France when a driver's license application by Annika Flodin, a woman Einhorn had met and married during his fugitive years, set off a records check. [Appellant] was then arrested by French police on June 13, 1997, in the village of Champagne–Mouton. Upon [Appellant's] arrest, the United States immediately sought his extradition from France. In December 1997, La Cour Administrative d'Appel de Bordeaux, which had jurisdiction over [Appellant], refused to permit [Appellant's] extradition to the United States. The denial of extradition was based on the French extradition court's rule that fugitives found guilty in absentia should automatically receive a new trial.
Faced with the possibility that [Appellant] could remain free in southern France and never be brought to justice in the United States, the Pennsylvania General Assembly, in response to the decision of La Cour Administrative d'Appel de Bordeaux, amended the [PCRA] by late January 1998, to include the following section:
(c) Extradition.-If the petitioner's conviction and sentence resulted from a trial conducted in his absence, and if the petitioner has fled to a foreign country that refuses to extradite him because a trial in absentia was employed, the petitioner shall be entitled to the grant of a new trial if the refusing country agrees by virtue of this provision to return him, and if the petitioner upon such return to this ...

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