Killer Didn't Go by Book, 'Hit Man' Publisher Says
By Ruben Castaneda
The publisher of a controversial "hit man" manual that allegedly provided the blueprint for a grisly 1993 triple murder in Silver Spring says there really aren't many similarities between the book and the killings, and he wants a federal lawsuit by the victims' relatives thrown out of court.
Attorneys for Peder C. Lund, publisher of Boulder, Colo.-based Paladin Press, say that even if convicted hired killer James Edward Perry, 50, read the book, "there are precious few parallels between the information contained in the book and the crimes Perry actually committed."
In a motion for summary judgment filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Lund's attorneys detailed several ways in which they said Perry did not follow the instructions of "Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors." The book, which Paladin first published in 1983, was written by a divorced mother of two who was not a "hit man" and did not even own a gun, according to court records.
The motion asserts that Perry, convicted of armed robbery and assault in the 1970s, knew many of the techniques in the book long before he ordered it in early 1992, having learned them in his tough Detroit neighborhood and in Michigan state prison. The techniques are common knowledge among criminals, the court papers said.
For instance, the motion states, Perry already knew that shooting people in the head would increase the odds the victim would die and that he should obliterate serial numbers from firearms, break down and dispose of the murder weapon and leave no fingerprints.
And contrary to what "Hit Man" recommends, Perry registered under his own name when he checked into a hotel just before committing the murders, according to court records.
In their civil lawsuit, relatives of Mildred Horn and her son, Trevor, allege that Perry was "aided and abetted" by "Hit Man" and another Paladin book about how to build and dispose of silencers. The case is scheduled to go to trial May 25 before U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. and could have a dramatic impact on First Amendment law, according to lawyers and legal observers. Part of Lund's defense is that he is protected by the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech and of the press.
Constitutional scholars, publishers, reporters groups and even film producers are closely monitoring the lawsuit. No lawsuit alleging that books or other such works led to violence has ever been successful.
Perry was convicted in 1995 of murdering Mildred Horn; her 8-year-old son, Trevor; and the boy's nurse, Janice Saunders. Lawrence Horn, Mildred's ex-husband and Trevor's father, was convicted the following year of hiring Perry to commit the murders.
Prosecutors said Horn hired Perry to commit the slayings so he could inherit the $1.7 million remaining in Trevor's estate from a medical malpractice settlement.
At Perry's trial, Montgomery County prosecutors said there were 22 points of similarity between the crime and "Hit Man," a book he had ordered. The two adult victims were shot in the eye. Trevor, a quadriplegic, had his breathing tube yanked away.
Howard L. Siegel, the Rockville lawyer representing the relatives, said he plans to file a detailed response to Lund's motion by the Dec. 21 deadline.
In an interview, Siegel scoffed at Paladin's claims. "I expect Paladin will assert that because James Perry did not wear a fedora, he did not follow the book," Siegel said, referring to art on the book cover, which shows a gun-toting man in a fedora.
Siegel said Perry may merely have not have done a good job following certain specific recommendations contained in "Hit Man."
For instance, in court papers, Lund's attorneys note that the book recommends making a contract murder in a home look like a burglary. Credit and bank cards were taken from Mildred Horn's wallet, but cash, televisions, camera equipment, jewelry and other items were left behind by the killer, court papers said.
Perry "clearly went out of his way to make it look like a burglary. He just didn't do a great job of it," Siegel said.
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