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Family files wrongful death suit against publisher of "hit man" book

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Family files wrongful death suit against publisher of "hit man" book02/12/96 MARYLAND--The families of three murder victims have filed suit…

Family files wrongful death suit against publisher of “hit man” book

02/12/96

MARYLAND–The families of three murder victims have filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt against the publisher of a hit- man’s “how-to” manual that they say was used as a guide in the murder of their relatives.

The relatives claim that the publisher conspired with and aided and abetted a man convicted of the 1993 killings of flight attendant Mildred Horn, her disabled eight-year-old son and the boy’s nurse.

The families assert that two manuals, entitled “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors” and “How to make a disposable silencer,” were used by the killer as guides to orchestrate the murders. They charged that the publisher “specifically and maliciously intended” that the books would be used by murderers, and that the manuals were published with “the express intention to encourage and facilitate the commission of murder.”

The manuals are published by Paladin Press of Boulder, Colo., which publishes additional books such as “The Anarchist’s Handbook,” “How to Destroy Bridges,” and “Be Your Own Undertaker: How to Dispose of a Dead Body.”

The relatives allege that Mildred Horn’s former husband, Lawrence T. Horn, hired James Edward Perry to carry out the killings in the hope that the father would inherit money awarded to his son in a medical malpractice suit. Perry has been convicted of the murders, and the father’s trial is set to take place in early April.

The lawyer for Paladin Press and Paladin president Peder Lund, stated that if authors and publishers are held liable for the misuse of information they have disseminated it could set a dangerous precedent which would cripple free speech in this country. Novelists, television networks and movie producers could all have their free speech chilled by the prospect of civil liability for criminal acts similar to stories and scenarios depicted in those mediums, the publisher said.

Courts usually reject similar claims seeking to impose liability on publishers and broadcasters for the acts of their audiences, ruling that such speech does not pose a clear and present danger of inciting imminent lawless behavior.

Opponents of the book argue that it should not be protected from civil liability because the work is an unreasonably dangerous product with no redeeming social value, and does not fall into “traditional” categories of speech protected under the First Amendment. (Rice v. Paladin Press; Media Counsel: Dan Hale, Boulder, Colo.)