Judge foresees ‘uphill battle’ in ‘Hit Man’ case
MARYLAND–A federal District Court judge in Greenbelt hearing arguments on a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the publisher of a “hit man” manual told the families of three murder victims that they would have “an uphill battle” because of First Amendment protections, according to a Washington Post account.
The suit was filed in late January by the families of three murder victims who claim that Paladin Press and owner Peter Lund, who published the book “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors,” aided and abetted a man convicted of the 1993 killings of Mildred Horn, her disabled eight year old son and the boy’s nurse.
Prosecutors argued that the convicted assailant, James Edward Perry, followed 22 tips outlined in the 130-page paperback to carry out the murders. Perry was sentenced to death last fall. Lawrence Horn, who is Mildred Horn’s ex-husband and Trevor’s father, was sentenced to life in prison last Spring after being convicted of hiring Perry to carry out the murders.
The attorney for the publisher asserted that while the general public might find the nature of the publication abhorrent, the First Amendment does not permit censorship on the grounds of distaste, according to the Post. He suggested that books of realistic fiction and true crime tales by such authors as Tom Clancy to Truman Capote would be vulnerable to similar claims if the families win this case.
The victims’ families argued that there was no redeeming value to the book and that it is intended to inspire someone to kill or act as an intermediary in a killing.
The Post reported that during the arguments, the judge questioned what practical difference there was between the manual and “what I see on television — gangster rap, ‘Cop Killer.’ They’re protected. Why wouldn’t this be protected?”
The families’ attorney responded that “Hit Man” tells someone how to get into an illegal business, which distinguishes it from other controversial or violent speech. The publisher had conceded this point solely for purposes of arguing that the suit should be dismissed before trial.
The judge announced he would release a written opinion in late August. (Rice v. Paladin Press; Media Counsel: Thomas Kelley, Denver)