Murder, by the Book

By Don Corson

It is unusual for an attorney to be asked to handle a murder for hire case, even more unusual that the case would be against the publishing company for printing a hit man’s “how to” book.

Bobby Joe came to me after a man named Robert Jones broke into her house in the middle of the night and attacked her and her young son. Bobby Joe and her son escaped the attack with their lives but came away from that night with both physical and emotional injuries. When the police arrested Mr. Jones soon after, he seemed stone-faced, and as they conducted their investigation, the tale took a darker turn.

The police discovered a book among Jones’ possessions entitled, Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors. The manual outlined in detail how to prepare for, and execute, a ‘hit’. As details of the attack and the weeks beforehand started falling into place, they read eerily similar to the assassin’s checklist in the book. From the specific types of weapons to the percentage of the life insurance policy a hit man can expect, the book read like a play-by-play of the attack on Bobby Joe and her son.

It came to light that Bobby Joe had recently split from her husband, who had decided that he wanted to get the life insurance on his soon to be ex-wife while keeping his own hands clean. He hired Jones to plan and execute the murder of Bobby Joe. They planned to split the life insurance money he would receive. Fortunately, Jones did not succeed in his assassination attempt, Bobby Jo survived, and Jones was convicted and sent to prison.

Now was the time to seek justice in the civil courts against the co-conspirator that gave step-by-step instructions to the would-be professional killer. We represented Bobby Joe against the publisher of the hit man how-to book.  The publisher also printed other books that might appeal to survivalists, mercenary wanna-be’s, and others.  Most of those books were within the broad umbrella of First Amendment protections, but not the Hit Man publication itself. Ironically, the original author meant the book to be a work of fiction, but the publisher turned it into a how-to instructional manual. The Hit Man manual encouraged individuals to plan and carryout heinous acts. As part of the case, we brought to light the shocking similarities between the book’s instructional guide and the attempted murder that took place.

The case was eventually resolved on a confidential settlement. More importantly, that helped Bobby Joe to get this this chapter in her life behind her.

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