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

ISBN: 0609805630

ISBN13: 9780609805633

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

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Book Overview

The case was this: Lawrence Horn hired a contract killer to execute his ex-wife and severely brain-damaged son. On March 3, 1992, the man he hired, an inexperienced killer named James Perry, used a book called Hit Man -- billed by the publisher as "A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors" -- as a blueprint for the murders; following to the letter the book's explicit instructions on how to make the killings look like a burglary gone wrong and...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Excellent On1st Amendment, and Real Murder!!

This book is about as perfect as you can get! Mainly a true story of a lawsuit against Paladin Press for publishing the book HIT MAN, it is a very entertaining read for such a gruesome subject. Sweeping through law school discussions, 1st Amendment history, and the details of the US Court System, this is a real page turner. The details of the lawsuit, the personalities, the judges, including one whose elderly father was murdered in his own driveway just a few years before this case started, are all fascinating! So for a tour through the law and the truly horrific murders of 3 completely innocent people, and even the streets of LA and Motown records, and much more, this one is tough to beat!


A publishing house turns a tidy profit on a "how to" book--about how to be a contract killer, that is. A man hires somebody to kill his wife and handicapped son for insurance. The murder is committed using the "how to" book as a blueprint. What is a First Amendment free speech absolutist to do?That is the burden of this book and its author, Rod Smolla, a professor of law at William and Mary's law school. With every fiber of his being, Smolla believes in the First Amendment and unfettered free expression. Then, he takes on the case of the victims' next of kin against the publisher...and winds up doing battle against the assembled might of the First Amendment bar in federal court.It's all here. Smolla is a good story teller and he has put together a good narrative of the thrust and parry, point and edge of the case. His character sketches of the lawyers involved and the defendant publisher are wickedly funny. He spares no one, friend or foe (at one point, he says that his co-counsel on the case suffers from "narcistic fibrosis.") The writing style is crisp and fluid. Smolla weaves into the book meditations on the clash of rights with obligations, the different schools of jurisprudential thought from the Natural Law to Legal Realism, the vicissitudes of judges and judging, and the tension-filled process of creating a legal theory and the record to back it up. I was so engrossed in the story I had no idea I was actually learning something! As an aside to lawyers and law students, this could be the best basic book on legal process and legal practice since the "Buffalo Creek Disaster." If you like this book, check out Patrick Cleary's book on the R.A.V. cross-burning case before the Supreme Court.


This is a well written and structured book which takes what most people would consider a dull subject and makes it interesting and entertaining for any reader. The subject is the book Hit Man and whether it was protected by the First Amendment.The author develops the case from beginning to end in a very readable way and uses his teaching class examples to educate non legal readers in the issues of law being debated.I am a non lawyer and am not American but I have much better understanding of the issues and the First Amendment. The author wrote the book in such a way that I gained this understanding in an entertaining and very readable way.The use of character development for each of the lawyers involved also gave the book life and relevance to non lawyers.This is one of those few books that can be considered 5 star.

As entertaining and educational as being in his class...

Before writing my review, I must disclose that Rod Smolla was my professor for 2 classes during law school and one of my favorite professors. That is why I bought the book. I don't like nonfiction. I don't really like books about the law. I read about the law every day. I didn't expect to enjoy the book, but figured it would be something I would wade through because I knew the author. I was wrong. This book is compelling. The crime at the basis of the court case is heart breaking and the book HitMan (which I have also read) is as offensive as anything I have ever read. The author portrays the victims and the convicted killers with appropriate compassion and vilification and makes their story come alive. But I found much more interesting the battle within the author over his involvement in the case. He gave lawyers a human face, one that the legal profession so desperately needs. I recommend this book to lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Understanding the complexities of the legal arguments is really not the centerpiece of the book. It is a story about a lawyer, as interesting and plot-driven as any fiction story. My only problem with the book is that I wish I (and my classmates) were as intelligent and articulate as the classroom discussions made us look. :)

A Great Book

I am not a lawyer and yet I still enjoyed Rod Smolla's book, Dangerous Intent, immensely. The book was so informative and entertaining that I felt compelled to respond to the baffling "review" submitted by J. David Truby. I'm afraid I disagree with Mr. Truby across the board. I bought and read this book because, in light of the outbreak of violence in our country coupled with the constant threats to individual rights (I don't think one has to be a lawyer to appreciate the importance of Freedom of Speech), I thought Smolla's book might prove especially enlightening and relevant. It did. Though the book reads like a well-paced novel (Smolla interweaves highly emotional encounters with friends, family, and colleagues along wit his explanation of the issues) the main thrust of the book is its thoughtful and objective analysis of First Amendment law.Mr. Truby's character assissination of the author is his most baffling assertion. Smolla fills the book with self-effacing humor and vulnerable disclosures about the emotional and intellectual complexities involved with is taking a highly unpopular (with First Amendment colleagues) stance to acknowledge the gray ares of free speech (teaching and enthusiastically encouraging citizens to become hitmen, Smolla argues,is not protected by the First Amendment.)In this age of fast and furious sound bites signifying nothing, it seems especially important that we, regardless of time constraints, try to take deeper and more detailed looks at key public issues. The random acts of violence that pervade this country have brought us to a collective crisis point. Perhaps policy makers could use some help. It's time for all of us, not just talk show hosts and political candidates, to enter the conversation.Deliberate Intent was not only fun (I laughed out loud several times) but satisfying: I received an education on this key issue which the newspapers and talk shows seem unwilling or unable to give. I strongly recommend Deliberate Intent to all readers and strongly recommend as well that Mr. Truby take a second glance at the title page of the book on which he based his comments to see if we're discussing the same work!Jerry Lombton
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