PARIS -- French prison authorities, defending themselves after a US murder suspect hanged himself in jail while on suicide watch, said yesterday they could not have kept him under 24-hour surveillance.
Paul Eduardovich Goldman, 39, a naturalized US citizen, killed himself Sunday in a prison in the suburbs of Grenoble in the French Alps, said his lawyer, Arnaud Levy-Soussan.
The New Jersey resident was captured Jan. 20 in France, where he fled after allegedly killing his lover in the United States.
A spokeswoman for the Penitentiary Administration Department declined to provide information about the case but said that guards could not watch prisoners at all times.
"We can't take on or allow for surveillance 24 hours a day, every second," said the spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Goldman's lawyer said his client had already attempted to kill himself in January.
"I don't understand," Levy-Soussan told The Associated Press. "He was not meant to be left alone and [was supposed] to be under constant surveillance."
"But that wasn't the case. I think French authorities made a big mistake. That is clear," the lawyer said.
A court in Grenoble ruled Friday that Goldman could be extradited to Pennsylvania to face first-degree murder charges in the fatal stabbing of Faina "Fay" Zonis, 42, a Philadelphia mortgage processor found dead in her office on Dec. 29.
A postcard found at Goldman's Mount Laurel, N.J., town house ultimately led investigators to a residence in Grenoble.
Levy-Soussan said Goldman learned just last week of the January deaths of his parents -- news that likely contributed to his distress.
Edward Goldman, 66, and his wife, Inessa Lemashova, 63, committed suicide by slitting their wrists. The couple left a note saying they were disgraced by their son and didn't want to live. Police found their bodies Jan. 13.
The lawyer said he learned of the deaths in late March through a news report and then told his client. "I contacted the prison director to say, 'Be careful. Mr. Goldman must be watched because he's not doing well and, on top of that, this type of news is not likely to make him feel better,' " Levy-Soussan said. "I was told that measures were taken, but clearly those measures were insufficient."