Court Opinions Regarding
"Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors"
U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr.
U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
- Dismissed the plaintiffs' claims, saying that even speech that is "reprehensible and devoid of any significant redeeming social value" is protected by the First Amendment.
- Although the books advocated murder, they did not incite imminent lawless action.
"[T]he defendants (publisher) must have intended imminent lawless action."
"[A]lthough (the book is) morally repugnant, it does not constitute incitement or a call to action."
"Nothing in the book says, 'Go out and commit murder now!' Instead, the book seems to say, in so many words, 'If you want to be a hit man, this is what you need to do.' This is advocacy, not incitement."
"While the books have proven to contain information which, when it makes its way into the wrong hands, can be fatal, First Amendment protection is not eliminated simply because publication of an idea creates a potential hazard."
"It is simply not acceptable to a free and democratic society to limit and restrict creativity in order to avoid dissemination of ideas in artistic speech which may adversely affect emotionally troubled individuals."
- Ruled that Paladin Enterprises is not protected by the First Amendment against claims of aiding and abetting in the murders committed in 1993 by a reader of the book.
- The court cited numerous step-by-step instructions from the book that the killer had followed closely in the murders.
- The court noted that Paladin had agreed that the murderer followed the above-enumerated instructions from Hit Man, as well as instructions from another Paladin publication, "How to Make a Disposable Silencer, Vol. II," in planning and committing the murders.
- Paladin has stipulated not only that, in marketing Hit Man, Paladin "intended to attract and assist criminals and would-be criminals who desire information and instructions on how to commit crimes" but also that it "intended and had knowledge" that Hit Man actually "would be used, upon receipt, by criminals and would-be criminals to plan and execute the crime of murder for hire."
"Indeed, the publisher has even stipulated that, through publishing and selling Hit Man, it assisted Perry in particular in the perpetration of the very murders for which the victims' families now attempt to hold Paladin civilly liable."
- "Because long-established caselaw provides that speech -- even speech by the press -- that constitutes criminal aiding and abetting does not enjoy the protection of the First Amendment, and because we are convinced that such caselaw is both correct and equally applicable to speech that constitutes civil aiding and abetting of criminal conduct (at least where, as here, the defendant has the specific purpose of assisting and encouraging commission of such conduct and the alleged assistance and encouragement takes a form other than abstract advocacy), we hold . . . that the First Amendment does not pose a bar to a finding that Paladin is civilly liable as an aider and abettor of Perry's triple contract murder."
- "In the seminal case of Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), the Supreme Court held that abstract advocacy of lawlessness is protected speech under the First Amendment.
However, while even speech advocating lawlessness has long enjoyed protections under the First Amendment, it is equally well established that speech, which, in its effect, is tantamount to legitimately proscribable nonexpressive conduct, may itself be legitimately proscribed, punished, or regulated incidentally to the constitutional enforcement of generally applicable statutes."
- "It rarely has been suggested that the constitutional freedom for speech and press extends its immunity to speech or writing used as an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute. We reject the contention now. . . .
It has never been deemed an abridgment of freedom of speech or press to make a course of conduct illegal merely because the conduct was in part initiated, evidenced, or carried out by means of language, either spoken, written, or printed.
Thus, in a case indistinguishable in principle from that before us, the Ninth Circuit expressly held in United States v. Barnett, 667 F.2d 835 (9th Cir. 1982), that the First Amendment does not provide publishers a defense as a matter of law to charges of aiding and abetting a crime through the publication and distribution of instructions on how to make illegal drugs."
- The district court "concluded alternatively (albeit in dicta) that Hit Man is entitled to the protections of Brandenburg in any event because it is a mere instructional manual for, and not an incitement to, murder. However, in this conclusion the district court erred as well, misunderstanding the Supreme Court's decision in Brandenburg to protect not just abstract advocacy of lawlessness and the open criticism of government and its institutions, but also the teaching of the technical methods of criminal activity -- in this case, the technical methods of murder."
- "The Supreme Court has never protected as abstract advocacy speech so explicit in its palpable entreaties to violent crime."
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