In Rice v. Paladin Enterprises, Inc. Mildred Horn’s relatives and representatives sued Paladin Enterprises, Inc. claiming that the publishing company crossed the line of what constitutes protected speech under the First Amendment. Rice argues that Paladin aided and abetted Lawrence Horn and James Perry in the triple homicide of Horn’s ex-wife, Mildred Horn, their eight-year-old son, Trevor, and Trevor’s nurse, Janice Saunders. After an ugly divorce, Horn hired Perry as a contract killer to murder the three victims so he could inherit a $2 million settlement that was to be granted to him in the wake of the immediate deaths of Mildred Horn and their quadriplegic son Trevor. (Trager, 311)
Before preparing for this vicious inhumane act, Perry read Hitman: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, a book published by Paladin Enterprises, which is a how-to manual that teaches the professional techniques of how to murder and get away with the criminal offense. Perry followed the book’s thorough instructions as precisely as possible from the time he solicited a client for a job all the way until he “altered his AR-7,” changing the ballistics, which prevents police laboratories from tracing the bullets from the victims bodies back to the murder weapon. “Hitman instructs killers to use specified tools to alter specified parts of the rifle. Hitman at 25.” (Rice) Perry also followed the books instructions on how to cover his tracks when he used a fake license tag number when checking into a motel a short distance from the victims’ address the night before the murder. (Rice) Furthermore, he used the book as an aid to make a homemade silencer, which is instructed over the course of 12 pages in Hitman. (Rice) Any reasonable jury could concede that the publishing company aided and abetted Horn and Perry in the murders of Mildred Horn, Trevor, and Saunders. After the United States District Court of Maryland erred, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Rice. The district court first dismissed the case stating that the state “does not provide a civil cause of action for aiding and abetting,” and then ruled in favor of Paladin using Brandenburg as precedent and affirming that the First Amendment protects abstract advocacy, “the freedom to criticize that which constrains,” “one of the ultimate safeguards of liberty.” (Trager, 312) The Supreme Court reversed this decision, concluding that the message of the book and the type of speech contained in the 130 pages intended to incite harm, and it also assisted and inspired the harmful and criminal action of murder. This decision holds consistent with the First Amendment to protect the individual because the Court determined that the content of the book was unlawful because it not only advocated, but also incited and provoked immediate violence and harm.
Rice v. Paladin Enterprises, Inc. is a rare civil case where the protection of First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech did not stand as a defense in the Supreme Court. Rice v. Paladin focused on the rights of the First Amendment that defined Constitutional boundaries in terms of its legal, social, and political context. The type of speech that was published in Hitman: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors aided and abetted James Perry in the murder of Mildred Horn, her eight-year old son, Trevor and Janice Saunders, and does not fall under the definition of abstract advocacy, placing it outside the scope of freedom of speech. Legally, this case set boundaries for Paladin Enterprises, as well as other media outlets, making them a responsible party in a triple homicide. Socially, this case clarifies the notion that speech that gives specific instructions on how to carry out criminal acts is not considered abstract advocacy. And politically, this case made a clear distinction of what constitutes speech that does not fall under the scope of freedom.