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Deliberate Intent: A Lawyer Tells the True Story of Murder by the Book

Rod Smolla

23 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0609604139 / ISBN 13: 9780609604137
Published by CROWN PUBLISHERS, INC., 1999
Used Condition: Good Hardcover
From Strand Book Store, ABAA (New York, NY, U.S.A.)

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Deliberate Intent: A Lawyer Tells the True ...


Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Good

About this title


Deliberate Intent is the riveting account of the landmark Hit Man case, by noted First Amendment attorney Rod Smolla, who risked reputation and career when he took on a cause that seemed to oppose his strongest beliefs.
Early in 1992, Lawrence Horn hired a contract killer to execute his ex-wife and his severely brain-damaged son. On March 3, 1992, the man he hired, James Perry, traveled to Silver Spring, Maryland, and murdered Horn's ex-wife and child and the boy's nurse. Perry used a book called Hit Man as an instruction manual for the murders. The subsequent criminal trial became known as the Hit Man case, and after Horn and Perry were convicted of murder, the victims' families surprised the nation by filing an unprecedented wrongful death suit against Paladin Press, publisher of Hit Man. In a controversial turn of events, Paladin was being blamed for the murders.
Distinguished attorney Rod Smolla, First Amendment expert and vigorous advocate of free speech, was approached to represent the victims' families in the civil suit against Paladin. Smolla initially declined, but after reading Hit Man and likening it to "a loaded pistol or a vial of poison," he decided to take on the case, even though it seemed to go against his abiding belief in the First Amendment. Smolla argued that if Paladin Press knew and intended that its murder manual Hit Man would be used in the actual planning and execution of contract killings, Paladin was not entitled to immunity under the First Amendment. In an appeal that stunned the legal world, Smolla's argument prevailed and was affirmed by the Supreme Court. Deliberate Intent is the dramatic story of the events behind this landmark case--a story that includes murder, trials, and appeals and, most important, raises fascinating and difficult questions about our most cherished freedom.


Deliberate Intent is a book about a lawsuit about a book about murder. The latter book, Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, is precisely what it claims to be: a step-by-step DIY guide to freelance assassination. Few people read Hit Man; even fewer took it seriously. Ex-con James Perry did both, and when Lawrence Horn hired the felonious entrepreneur to do a little job for him, Perry followed the book's instructions to the letter, executing his client's ex-wife and brain-damaged son along with the boy's nurse. After the murderous co-conspirators were convicted and sent to prison, the families of the victims filed a wrongful-death suit against the book's publisher for aiding and abetting triple homicide.

Authored by a member of the plaintiffs' team of lawyers, Deliberate Intent is an atypical nonfiction legal thriller. Rod Smolla has not reconstructed his role in Rice v. Paladin Enterprises, Inc. to spotlight his valiant determination and legal genius; instead, he offers uncommonly candid insight into his struggle to reconcile the First Amendment's protection of free speech with the sixth commandment's proscription against murder. A respected scholar of constitutional law, Smolla was understandably reluctant to take on a case with potentially damaging consequences for the Bill of Rights--and willingly admits there were times when he questioned if he was on the right side of the fight. Words don't kill people, after all; assassins kill people. Literacy is hardly a prerequisite. Eventually, however, Smolla decides, "A publisher who provides detailed information on techniques of violent crime with the deliberate intent that some readers will use the information to murder and maim will not find refuge in the First Amendment." (In May 1999, just before the case was to go to jury trial, Paladin reached an out-of-court agreement with the victims' families. As part of the settlement, Paladin withdrew Hit Man from the market.) --Tim Hogan

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