Welcome to France, killers

Posted: Aug 01, 2001 12:00 AM
Even as Our Betters in France have extradited two American fugitives accused of killing their girlfriends this month, their reluctance to do so only highlights their neurotic need to show themselves superior to all things American. Call it a case of chauvinism, but give French officialdom a chance to show up America, and they'll do so -- even if they have to shelter sickos to make a puny point. The next French tourism slogan could be: Entrez, fugitive lady-killers. This month, the French finally extradited former peace activist and convicted killer Ira Einhorn to Philadelphia. In 1977, Einhorn's girlfriend, Holly Maddux, 30, disappeared. Einhorn told people Maddux had gone to the store and never came back. When Philly's finest finally searched Einhorn's apartment in 1979, they found Maddux's rotted corpse in a trunk in Einhorn's closet. Her skull had been fractured six times. In 1981, as he was set to stand trial, Einhorn jumped bail and fled to Europe. He later was tried in absentia and found guilty. In 1997, French gendarmes raided the country home that Einhorn shared with his Swedish wife. Alas, neither French courts nor the European Court of Human Rights was in a rush to return Einhorn to justice. Au contraire, as Einhorn's Parisian attorney, Dominique Tricaud, told Time magazine. France would "give the United States a lesson in human rights," he said. A lesson we got. As the Philadelphia Daily News reported, the first article about Einhorn in his local paper in France didn't mention Maddux. A neighbor told the paper, "Maybe she deserved it." All bow to the superior French take on human rights. Tricaud told Time that France would not send a man back to a "barbaric" country that would try someone in absentia for a crime with a possible life sentence. (France also tries the accused in absentia, but allows them to request a retrial when caught.) He was right. Not only did French courts free Einhorn, they sent him back to his quaint little village, and his slate-roofed country cottage, where fugitive and wife were free to party with friends, sip Bordeaux and eat snails. Einhorn even posed naked for Esquire magazine. He got joie de vivre; Holly got no vie. Makes you wish you were a French sophisticate, n'est-ce pas? It was not until two years after Pennsylvania changed the law to allow Einhorn another trial that justice-loving France finally loaded the France-loving Einhorn on a plane, prison-bound. Just days later, and four years after he was first apprehended, French officials also returned to Sacramento James Nivette, an American suspected of killing his girlfriend by shooting her 13 times. At least savvy French officials kept Nivette behind bars, albeit in a low security prison, while he fought extradition. Still, despite Nivette's loss of his license to practice psychology because he seduced female patients, and despite the fact that he was on probation for assaulting his girlfriend Gina Barnett at the time of the murder, and despite the fact that Nivette is believed to have dumped his 18-month-old baby on a San Bruno street corner as he headed to the airport, the French Minister of Education supported Nivette. Either Nivette has some truly revolutionary ideas on preschooling, or some French grandees are as indulgent about so-called crimes of passion as they are about adultery. Just to flex their muscles, officials made Sacramento promise not to seek the death penalty -- even though Deputy D.A. Frank Meyer insisted Nivette "never has been a death penalty case." Also, Nivette had recourse to the European Court of Human Rights, which, his attorney told The San Francisco Chronicle last year, sees the 25-years-to-life sentence Nivette faces -- with a possible extra 10 years for using a gun -- as too tough. Pas de probleme, his son's mother's sentence was too tough as well.