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Lawrence T. HORN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Murder for hire - To collect around $1.7 to $2 million in life insurance money
Number of victims: 3
Date of murder: March 3, 1993
Date of birth: 1939
Victims profile: Mildred Horn, 43 (his ex-wife), Trevor Horn, 8 (his severely retarded son) and Janice Roberts Saunders, 38 (the son's nurse)
Method of murder: Shooting (.22-caliber rifle) - Suffocation
Location: Montgomery County, Maryland, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on May 17, 1996
 
 
 
 
 
 
In May 1996, Lawrence T. Horn was found guilty of first-degree murder and murder conspiracy for hiring a Detroit man to kill his ex-wife, his severely retarded son and the son's nurse in Silver Spring. The hit man, James Edward Perry, had purchased a how-to manual titled "Hit Man" before committing the murders in March 1993.

  
 

Lawrence Horn is an African-American musician, formerly a record producer and chief recording engineer for Motown Records. He is currently serving a life sentence for hiring a hit man to commit a triple-murder.

Horn was notable for pioneering many mixing techniques while at motown, and for directly supervising most of the mixes for Motown singles during the label's success period from 1964 to 1967.

Laid off by Motown in 1990, Horn slid into debt. In 1993, Horn contracted James Perry to kill his wife, mentally challenged son, and the family's overnight nurse. The motive for hiring the murder was that Horn stood to gain around $1.7 to $2 million in life insurance money if his wife and son should pass away.

Perry was sentenced to the death penalty in 1993 for the murders, and in 1996 Lawrence Horn was found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of murder conspiracy.

The case prompted a lawsuit against Paladin Press, the publishers of Hit Man, which is a how-to book that James Perry used as a guide to execute the murders.

 
 

Horn Convicted for Three Murders

By Karl Vick - The Washington Post

Saturday, May 4, 1996

Lawrence T. Horn was found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder and one of murder conspiracy today by a jury that decided the former Motown recording engineer hired a Detroit man to execute his former wife, an overnight nurse and the severely retarded 8-year-old son whose estate Horn stood to inherit.

Horn, 56, betrayed no emotion as the verdicts were read in a packed courtroom after 7 1/2 hours of deliberations. Standing in the blue suit he has worn every day of the month-long trial, the defendant shifted his eyes from the jury forewoman only when she answered "guilty" to the count naming his son.

Trevor Horn left behind a $1.7 million trust fund from a malpractice settlement that arose from the hospital incident that left him a quadriplegic. Lawrence Horn was fighting in civil court to inherit that money when he was arrested in the murders along with James Edward Perry. Perry, who purchased a how-to manual titled "Hit Man" and followed it almost to the letter in Mildred Horn's Silver Spring home on the night of March 3, 1993, was sentenced to death three times by a Montgomery County jury in October.

The Frederick County jury will reassemble on May 13 to decide Horn's fate. His trial was moved from Montgomery when Horn exercised his right under state law to move his death penalty case from the original jurisdiction.

"There's no joy in this decision, because joy was taken from us on March the 3rd, 1993," said Terry Krebs, whose sister Janice Roberts Saunders was 38 the night she rose from her chair beside Trevor Horn's bed and was shot in the eye.

"I'm just glad that we got a guilty verdict," said Tiffani Horn, 21, who testified that her father had asked her to videotape the interior of her mother's house, apparently so that Horn could acquaint Perry with the killing ground.

"Not only were my mother and my brother and Janice killed, but my family was destroyed," Tiffani Horn said, her voice breaking. "I hope when this is over, we'll be able to rebuild it, because that's all we have, is family."

Horn's attorneys declined to comment on the verdict.

Montgomery Deputy State's Attorney Robert Dean said it brought "a certain completion and finality" to a multimillion-dollar three-year investigation that seemed proportionate to the magnitude of the crime.

The bodies were discovered in the early morning on a cul-de-sac called Northgate Drive near Bel Pre Road. Like Saunders, American Airlines flight attendant Mildred Horn, 43, had been shot in the eye with a .22-caliber rifle.

The method and caliber were recommended in "Hit Man," whose publisher is being sued in U.S. District Court by members of Mildred Horn's family who claim the book aided the murders. A hearing in U.S. District Court on whether the First Amendment's free speech guarantee applies to the book is scheduled for July 22.

Trevor's body lay amid stuffed animals in his criblike bed, the shrill alarm on his medical monitor carrying through the house. An autopsy showed the boy was smothered by someone who placed one hand over the tracheostomy opening in his throat and the other hand over his nose and mouth. Prosecutors said a blade of grass found on his cheek apparently was left by the killer.

Lawrence Horn was always the prime suspect, police said. His divorce from the former Millie Maree had been bitter, his attitude toward Trevor indifferent. Since being laid off by Motown in 1990, Horn had fallen deeply into debt. And even the judge in the hospital malpractice case told police that Horn had seemed unusually interested in the size of the settlement.

Horn's whereabouts on the night of the murders only heightened suspicion: At almost the precise hour the slayings occurred, he was in his Los Angeles apartment aiming a video camcorder at the time and date display of a cable preview channel.

A review of telephone records showed two calls to that apartment from Montgomery pay phones on the night of the murders. One was traced to the Days Inn on Shady Grove Road, where a James Perry had registered that night.

The discovery launched a massive FBI wiretap and surveillance effort that turned up Thomas E. Turner, a Horn cousin who testified, under immunity, that he had introduced Perry and Horn and served as a go-between for their contacts after the murders.

Turner's testimony was buttressed by 709 prosecution exhibits, mostly telephone records, and an answering machine tape that captured Perry and Horn talking, perhaps on the night of the murders.

Krebs, who drives a sedan with vanity plates reading MISUJAN, or "Miss you, Jan," said it was even more important to see Horn convicted than Perry.

"He was just a means to an end," she said. "There are many, many people like Perry out in this world. But to conceive of a scheme like this, to plan the death of your own child, to totally disregard the life of an innocent caregiver like my sister . . .

"He did the unthinkable."

 
 

Murder by the Book

By Brian Levin

Recipe for murder

Contract killer James Perry used Hit Man and another Paladin book, How to Make a Disposable Silencer, Volume II, to plan a triple execution in 1993. Hit Man was written under a pseudonym, Rex Feral, in 1983. The Silencer book was also published that same year under a pseudonym. Since then, both books have sold in excess of 13,000 copies each.

Following specific instructions from Hit Man, Perry executed three people in Silver Springs, Md., just outside Washington, D.C., on the night of March 3, 1993. Perry shot both Mildred Horn and Janice Saunders, a home care nurse, three times in the eyes with a modified AR-7 rifle from a distance of three feet. The two women cared for Mildred Horn’s 8-year-old quadriplegic son, Trevor, who was suffocated to death by Perry the same evening.

Perry had been hired to commit the murders by Lawrence Horn. Horn wanted his ex-wife, Mildred, and his son, Trevor, killed so he could reap the proceeds of a $1.7 million medical malpractice settlement awarded to his son after the boy sustained debilitating injuries during a hospital stay.

Perry, a native of Detroit, carefully followed over two dozen instructions from Hit Man to plan and commit the murders and then to flee from the crime scene. He relied on the book’s guidance in making solicitations to and in accepting payment from Lawrence Horn. Just as Hit Man instructed its readers, Perry chose an AR-7 rifle, obscured the gun’s serial number and affixed a silencer to it before shooting his victims. He removed ejected shells from the crime scene and tussled some of the victims’ belongings to make the murders appear to be part of a burglary -- again, just as the book recommended. To avoid detection after the murders, Perry followed the book’s instructions to disassemble the gun, file down its components, dump the pieces by the side of a road and flee the scene in a rental car bearing a stolen license plate.

Case dismissed, reinstated

Both Perry and Horn were tried and convicted for murder in Maryland state court. Perry was sentenced to death, while Horn was sentenced to life in prison without parole. After the murder convictions, the families of the victims filed civil wrongful death lawsuits in the U.S. District Court in Maryland to recover damages from Paladin Press.

In September 1996, U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr. dismissed the civil case against Paladin Press on First Amendment grounds. While finding Hit Man to be "loathsome ... reprehensible and devoid of any significant redeeming social value," the court threw out the lawsuit because it believed that the book did not fall under any of the recognized areas of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment.

The victims’ families appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. They were joined in their efforts by the National Victim Center, while Paladin Press’ position was supported by a variety of publishing concerns and media organizations including ABC and The New York Times. In a lengthy opinion, the appellate court reversed the district court’s dismissal and remanded the case back down to the lower court for trial.

The appellate court held that a jury could find that Paladin "aided and abetted" Perry in the commission of the murders, even in the absence of a showing that Paladin had an ongoing relationship or was engaged in a conspiracy with Perry. Paladin’s stipulation of fact that Hit Man assisted Perry in the commission of the murders, coupled with the publisher’s stipulation that it intended the book to be sold to murderers, was enough to establish a claim for aiding and abetting the murders, the court ruled. The combination of detailed instructions, encouraging prose and the publisher’s intent, the court reasoned, could lead a jury to find that Paladin "aided and abetted" in the killing.

Training, not mere advocacy

The Fourth Circuit also held that the district court misapplied the standard for unlawful incitement to the unique facts of this case. In Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), the U.S. Supreme Court held that political discourse that advocates crime can only be punished when it is likely to incite imminent criminal acts. The court of appeals found that the Brandenburg incitement test was inapplicable because Hit Man went beyond advocating crime to teaching it. Unlike abstract political advocacy about the desirability of violence, intentional and explicit instructions to commit violence are an extension of the crime itself, and thus are punishable, the court ruled.

The court of appeals opinion rejected claims by publishers, booksellers and news outlets that its decision would create new areas of liability for authors and journalists who communicate detailed accounts of real and fictional crimes. According to the court, Paladin’s "astonishing" stipulations that it both assisted Perry and intended its books to be purchased by criminals made the case unique.

Some observers believe that the court’s attempts to narrow the scope of its decision will not stop the precedent from being applied in other contexts. "Although the court was working with a narrow set of unique facts," said attorney David Greene, program director of the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, "its opinion still exposes for punishment a wide variety of so-called ‘instructional’ speech." Now that the Supreme Court has let the Hit Man ruling stand, courts around the country will have to decide how broadly to interpret the decision.

Attorney Brian Levin is an associate professor of criminal justice at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where he also serves as director of the Center on Hate & Extremism. He is co-author of The Limits of Dissent: The Constitutional Status of Armed Civilian Militias (Aletheia Press, 1996) and the author of a forthcoming book, Hate and Justice in America (Aspen Publications, 1998).

 
 

The Day They Came to Sue the Book

The courts take out a contract on free speech

By David B. Kopel - Reason.com

August/September 1999

Is a publisher legally responsible for the crimes perpetrated by one of its readers? In America, the answer now is "yes."

After serving several years in Michigan's Jackson State Prison for violent felonies, James Perry was released and soon went into business for himself--soliciting clients who wanted someone killed.

Later, Perry ordered two books from Paladin Press, How to Make Disposable Silencers and Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors.

Perry eventually met up with Lawrence Horn, who took out a contract on his ex-wife, Mildred Horn, and their quadriplegic son, Trevor. Trevor had won $1.7 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and Lawrence wanted the money for himself.

On March 3, 1993, Perry murdered Mildred, Trevor, and Trevor's nurse, Janice Saunder.

Perry had done a poor job of covering his tracks, and when investigators searched his home they found a Paladin Press catalog. Contacted by the police, Paladin could have invoked the First Amendment. That's what Kramerbooks and Barnes & Noble did in 1998, when Kenneth Starr subpoenaed them to discover whether Monica Lewinsky had bought the novel Vox. But Paladin did not even ask for the formality of a subpoena. It immediately turned Perry's purchase order over to the police.

Lawrence Horn was sentenced to life in prison; Perry was sentenced to death. Then Mildred's relatives hired attorney Howard Siegel for a civil case. Siegel had won the huge malpractice award for Trevor that had prompted the murders. He was more famous, however, for a 1985 case, Kelley v. R.G. Industries, in which he convinced the Maryland Court of Appeals to hold manufacturers of small, inexpensive handguns "strictly liable" for injuries resulting from their criminal misuse. (The decision was later voided by the Maryland legislature.)

The actual killer, James Perry, wasn't much of a lawsuit target; his check for Hit Man had bounced. Thus was born the case of Rice v. Paladin. Calling Paladin Press "despicable," Siegel announced that his suit was aimed at destroying the publisher.

What made Paladin so odious? The Boulder-based press has long published practical books for anti-establishmentarians, teaching such skills as how to build a rural home without connecting to the electricity grid, how to survive disasters, how to pass drug tests, and how to defend yourself. A lot of its books make an overt appeal to do-it-yourselfers but sell mostly to Walter Mittys. For instance, the new Paladin title Contingency Cannibalism: Superhardcore Survivalism's Dirty Little Secret would not have much economic viability if it sold only to cannibals. Rather, its market includes people interested in reading about an unusual topic, people interested in speculating about unlikely circumstances, and the like.

Similarly, Paladin has sold over 20,000 copies of Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors. The book's pseudonymous author, "Rex Feral" (King of the Beasts), is not, as the book pretends, an actual hit man. She is a divorced mother of two who needed money to pay her property taxes. When she submitted a fictional manuscript about a hit man to Paladin, the press asked her to change the style to a "how to."

Yet the book's commercial success was not with persons who actually wanted to do a contract murder. Other than James Perry, the only customer known to have used Hit Man in a crime was a killer who followed some of the book's suggestions about how to dispose of a dead body. The other 20,000 buyers were apparently people interested in reading a "true crime" book, or getting tips for writing such a book. Perhaps some hyper-vigilant readers wanted to know how contract killers operate, so as to take precautions against them. Some, no doubt, were simply attracted by the book's notoriety: The title's sales rate doubled in the years following the lawsuit. And there were certainly some readers who liked to imagine perpetrating a crime. (They would be similar to the audience for books like Perfectly Criminal, from the British Crime Writers Association: "Discover the secrets of the perfect crime...COULD YOU COMMIT THE PERFECT MURDER?...If you find you need help, here are some tips from the masters of the art." No one as yet has sued the BCWA.)

Despite Siegel's claim that "Paladin Press has established itself as a correspondence school for crime," there isn't enough money to be made in a mail-order bookstore whose main customers are hit men and cannibals. Indeed, if Paladin were marketing mainly to criminals, it would not retain records of who buys its books and would not voluntarily turn those records over to law enforcement when asked about a particular crime.

The plaintiffs in Rice v. Paladin claimed Perry used 22 techniques he had learned from Hit Man. On closer examination, the number shrank. For example, Hit Man discusses client solicitation by the contract killer, and Perry did solicit clients. But he started soliciting long before he read the book. Another dubious parallel: The book said to use a .22 caliber AR-7 rifle, and to shoot the adult victims in the eye to reduce blood splatter. Perry did this. But even if we assume that Perry chose an AR-7 because of Hit Man (rather than because Perry, as a convicted felon, could buy only on the black market and had to take what was available), what difference did that detail ultimately make? Perry was going to commit the crime anyway. If Perry had chosen some other gun, the victims would still be dead.

If anything, Perry didn't read Hit Man carefully enough. The main reason he was caught was because he registered under his own name at the Day's Inn where he stayed the night before the murders, despite the book's advice to use a pseudonym. A few hours after the murders, Perry called Lawrence Horn long distance, thus providing another key piece of evidence against himself--and disregarding Hit Man once more.

Initially, the federal trial judge threw Siegel's case out on summary judgment, ruling that there was no need for a trial. The 1969 Supreme Court decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio had held that the government cannot "forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation" unless "such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." To meet this standard, Siegel had to argue that Perry's murders were imminent when he bought Hit Man, even though 14 months had elapsed before he carried them out.

But in November 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed the decision and said the trial against Paladin should go forward. How could the 4th Circuit reconcile their decision with the clear Brandenburg standards about protection of free speech? It couldn't.

Instead, it asserted that because Hit Man contained no express political or social advocacy, the book was not protected by the Brandenburg test--even though many other courts have applied Brandenburg to apolitical speech. Further, claimed the court, a jury could find that the book's only "communicative value" was "training persons how to murder." This was obviously false, given that only two of the book's buyers are known to be criminals. There is simply no analogy between Hit Man and a document intended solely for crime (e.g., bank blueprints drawn up for a robbery).

The 4th Circuit ruling in Rice v. Paladin is inconsistent with many cases from other federal courts finding that the First Amendment prohibits suits against authors or publishers of various instruction manuals for illegal activity such as drug smuggling or marijuana cultivation. The defendants appealed to the Supreme Court, which denied certiorari--as the Court usually does before a factual record has been developed through a trial. The case was set for trial on May 25, 1999. A few days before then, Paladin's insurance company decided to settle, paying several million dollars to Mildred and Trevor Horn's family. Paladin agreed to cease publishing the book and its remaining stock of 700 copies sold out within a day.

The Utopian Anarchist Party promptly posted the full text of Hit Man on its Web site (www.overthrow.com/hitmanonline. html), where the book is now available for free. Thus, the perverse result of Siegel's lawsuit has been to make Hit Man more widely available than ever.

But an ominous precedent has been set, paving the way for more censorship by lawsuit. It was this fear that prompted The Washington Post, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Horror Writers Association to file amicus briefs in support of Paladin. Already, Oliver Stone is being sued for making Natural Born Killers, under the theory that the movie caused a robber to shoot and paralyze a clerk in a Louisiana convenience store. Refusing to dismiss the suit, the Louisiana Court of Appeals cited the 4th Circuit's Paladin decision. Thus litigation will go forward to discover what Stone's "intent" was in creating Natural Born Killers.

Who loses from such censorship? More people than you'd think. After all, a book that's useful to criminals can also be useful to law enforcement. Paladin's The Ultimate Sniper is used at the U.S. Army Sniper School in Fort Benning, Georgia, and by police SWAT teams all over the country. (If it can be proven that FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi read The Ultimate Sniper sometime before he killed Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, should her children have a right to sue Paladin?)

If Paladin is to blame for the murders, who else might find themselves in the dock? The U.S. Army, which trained Perry to kill people with the M-16 rifle (similar to the AR-7) and deliberately put him through a training regimen to desensitize him to the taking of human life? The State of Michigan, which let Perry out of prison after only a few years, despite two separate armed robbery convictions and an attempt to murder a police officer? (Michigan needed the space for drug users.) Or perhaps Jackson State Prison itself? Almost all the techniques mentioned in Hit Man could be learned from prisoners there, according to a guard on Perry's unit.

Or should we blame Mildred Horn? She knew her ex-husband was a murderer: He had bragged to her that during his Navy service, he shoved a sailor off a ship's deck into the ocean and made it look like an accident. She also said that Horn had tried to kill her more than once, and she warned relatives that if she were killed, Horn would be responsible. But there is no evidence that she took protective steps, beyond having a burglar alarm installed and warning Saunder, Trevor's nurse, not to open the door to strangers when Mildred was away. Nor was there any evidence that Saunder, before she accepted her job, was warned that she might be putting her life at risk.

Is it realistic to claim that a book, which at most affected a few details of how the crime was committed, is more responsible than anyone except the actual criminals? State legislatures in Louisiana, Texas, Nevada, Georgia, Maine, and elsewhere have passed laws to stop cities from filing suits designed to destroy Second Amendment rights. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) has introduced similar legislation in Congress. The Hit Man case suggests that even broader reforms are needed, to protect the First Amendment as well as the Second.
 

 

 
 
 
 
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