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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.