HOUSTON, MARCH 3 -- Soldier of Fortune magazine was negligent in publishing a classified ad that led to the contract killing of a Texas woman and should pay the victim's son and mother $9.4 million, a federal jury said today.
Gary Wayne Black, 18, and Marjorie Eimann, 64, filed the lawsuit seeking $22.5 million from the self-styled "Journal for Professional Adventurers." Sandra Black, Gary Black's mother and Eimann's daughter, was shot to death Feb. 21, 1985 at her home in Bryan, Tex.
An attorney for the magazine said it would appeal the verdict.
"Considering the evidence the jury was presented, and the fact that we weren't allowed to present all our evidence, we're disappointed but not surprised," attorney Larry Thompson said. "This fight goes three rounds like a lot of First Amendment cases. We lost the first round, but put your money on us in the next two rounds."
Jurors said the magazine should pay $1.5 million to Gary Black and $400,000 to Eimann in actual damages. Punitive damages were set at $7.5 million. The jury heard testimony for two weeks and deliberated 12 hours.
Sandra Black's husband, Robert, is on Texas' death row for paying John Wayne Hearn $10,000 to kill her. Hearn is serving three life terms in Florida for the Black slaying and two others.
Black contacted Hearn through a personal services classified ad offering the services of Vietnam veterans. Hearn placed the advertisement in Soldier of Fortune in late 1984 and it appeared in four issues.
The ad read: "Ex marines. '67-69 Nam vets. Ex-DI, weapons specialist -- jungle warfare. Pilot. ME. High-risk assignments. U.S. or overseas." It provided a phone number.
Attorneys for the magazine, based in Boulder, Colo., and its parent company, Omega Group Ltd., did not dispute that the ad brought Hearn and Black together, but insisted that magazine executives had no way of knowing the ad was for illegal activity.