Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors
Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors is a book written under the pseudonym Rex Feral and published by Paladin Press in 1983. Paladin Press owner Peder Lund claimed, in an interview with 60 Minutes, that the book started life as a detailed crime novel written by a Florida housewife, and that the format was later changed to appeal to Paladin's reader base. The book portrays itself as a how-to manual on starting a career as a hit man, fulfilling contracts.
Existing copies at Paladin Press were destroyed after the book was found to be used as a guide during a triple murder in 1993 (see below), but it can still be found online or can be purchased used from independent sellers. It is believed that 13,000 copies were sold, although Reason Magazine estimates there are 20,000 copies of the book in existence.
In 1993, a triple murder was committed in Montgomery County, Maryland, by a man who claimed to have used the book as his guide. James Perry, who had been imprisoned for violent crime, was caught, convicted, and sentenced to death. He had been hired by Lawrence T. Horn, who sought to receive the proceeds of a trust fund that resulted from his ex-wife's suing a hospital over injuries to their son. The families of Mildred Horn, her son Trevor, and her nurse Janice Saunders sued Paladin Press, the publisher of the book, claiming Paladin Press "aided and abetted" the murder. The suit, Rice v Paladin Enterprises, claimed that Paladin Press had a share of responsibility in the murders by virtue of their publication of a book that, by Paladin's own admission, could be used by criminals and would-be criminals in the solicitation, planning, and commission of murder for hire.
In November 1997, a U.S. appeals court ruled 3–0 that Hit Man was not protected by the free speech/free press clause of the First Amendment and thus Paladin Enterprises could be held liable for a triple murder committed by one of its readers.
On May 21, 1999, Paladin Press' insurance company agreed to settle the case out-of-court, against the wishes of Paladin Press themselves, who were confident that they would prevail in court; however, Paladin’s insurance company balked at going to court again, figuring expenses for a lengthy trial in federal court, plus the posting of a bond in case they lost and appealed, would have cost much more than the settlement. Under this settlement, Paladin's insurance policy paid several million dollars to the families of those killed by the murderer, while also agreeing to destroy the remaining 700 copies of the book in their possession and surrendering any rights they had to publish and reproduce the work. Jon Ford, Paladin’s editorial director, called the settlement "economic censorship."
The 2000 TV movie, Deliberate Intent, starring Timothy Hutton, is based on this case.
The book was also cited as a source of information in a similar crime committed by Robert Vaughn Jones in 1999.
- The Poor Man's James Bond (referred to in Hit Man)
- The Anarchist Cookbook
- Jolly Roger's Cookbook - Hit Man often appears under the Jolly Roger writings.
- Karl Vick (May 4, 1996). "Horn Convicted for Three Murders". Washington Post. pp. Page A01. Retrieved 2006-02-20.
- "'Hitman' decision a landmark battle". SPJ News. Society of Professional Journalist. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
- "RICE v PALADIN ENTERPRISES, No. 962412P". November 10, 1997. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
- The Murder of the First Amendment?
- "Deliberate Intent (TV 2000)". IMDB. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- Associated Press (2007-02-27). "'Hit Man' publisher settles Oregon lawsuit". Retrieved 2006-02-20.
- Kopel, David B. (August–September 1999). "The Day They Came to Sue the Book". Reason Magazine. Archived from the original on 2006-02-15. Retrieved 2006-02-21.
- Stim, Richard (October 20, 2007). "63. Dirty, Dangerous and Banned Books". Nolo. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- McMasters, Paul (May 24, 1999). "Murder by the book: Free speech takes a hit". First Amendment Center. Retrieved 2006-02-21.