An American fugitive attempted suicide by trying to cut his throat at his home in France on Thursday after losing an appeal to avoid extradition to the United States.
A few hours later, France agreed to a one-week postponement of the extradition at the request of the European Court of Human Rights, the Justice Ministry said in Paris
The lawyer for convicted murderer Ira Einhorn said his client's life was not in danger and that he had broke skin but suffered no major injury. "I think he had really decided to end his life, but at the last minute he changed his mind. It wasn't just an act," said attorney Dominique Delthil.
The 61-year-old American fugitive, a former anti-war activist, had just lost his last appeal under French law of the extradition order that would return him to Pennsylvania, where he was convicted of the gruesome killing of his girlfriend more than two decades ago.
His lawyer in Paris, Dominique Tricaud, said he'd spoken with Einhorn just after the ruling and that Einhorn said: "I'm doing it now. Bye."
Delthil, who was at Einhorn's house near Bordeaux during the attempt said, "He tried to cut his throat with a knife. It was not very pretty."
A French TV crew invited inside the home found Einhorn sitting in the kitchen, 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."
"I don't think they'll be able to arrest him if he's hospitalized," Delthil said outside Einhorn's home, in an ivy-covered converted windmill in a village in southwestern France.
The decision by the Council of State, France's highest administrative body, means Einhorn could be arrested immediately.
"France is going to extradite Mr. Einhorn. The problem that we have today is that he apparently tried to kill himself and is at the hospital in Angouleme. The question is if he can be moved," said Charles Malinas, a ministry official.
However, his lawyers have already appealed the case outside the French legal system, to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. France has no legal obligation to halt the extradition for such an appeal, though it may decide to do so.
A spokeswoman at the court in Strasbourg, Emma Hellyer, said Einhorn's petition had been received, and that a judge would decide if there are serious rights issues at stake. However, she said the court had no authority to block an extradition if France decided to move forward.
In Washington, U.S. authorities applauded the ruling by the Council of State.
"The Department of Justice is extremely pleased with the decision," spokeswoman Chris Watney said. "We are continuing to work closely with the French authorities to take appropriate action. The Justice Department expresses its appreciation to French authorities for their continued efforts in this matter."
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, he 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, France.
Einhorn has denied killing Maddux, saying that the charges stemmed from a government conspiracy against him.
Her sister, Mary Maddux, reacted with relief to Thursday's ruling. "It's been 24 years," she said. "Hopefully this will be drawing 24 years of a chase to a close, at least to get Ira back here."
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, French Prime Minister Lionel 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.