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Deliberate Intent: A Lawyer Tells the True Story of Murder by the Book Hardcover – June 22, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (June 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609604139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609604137
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #987,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Deliberate Intent is a book about a lawsuit about a book about murder. The latter book, Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, is precisely what it claims to be: a step-by-step DIY guide to freelance assassination. Few people read Hit Man; even fewer took it seriously. Ex-con James Perry did both, and when Lawrence Horn hired the felonious entrepreneur to do a little job for him, Perry followed the book's instructions to the letter, executing his client's ex-wife and brain-damaged son along with the boy's nurse. After the murderous co-conspirators were convicted and sent to prison, the families of the victims filed a wrongful-death suit against the book's publisher for aiding and abetting triple homicide.

Authored by a member of the plaintiffs' team of lawyers, Deliberate Intent is an atypical nonfiction legal thriller. Rod Smolla has not reconstructed his role in Rice v. Paladin Enterprises, Inc. to spotlight his valiant determination and legal genius; instead, he offers uncommonly candid insight into his struggle to reconcile the First Amendment's protection of free speech with the sixth commandment's proscription against murder. A respected scholar of constitutional law, Smolla was understandably reluctant to take on a case with potentially damaging consequences for the Bill of Rights--and willingly admits there were times when he questioned if he was on the right side of the fight. Words don't kill people, after all; assassins kill people. Literacy is hardly a prerequisite. Eventually, however, Smolla decides, "A publisher who provides detailed information on techniques of violent crime with the deliberate intent that some readers will use the information to murder and maim will not find refuge in the First Amendment." (In May 1999, just before the case was to go to jury trial, Paladin reached an out-of-court agreement with the victims' families. As part of the settlement, Paladin withdrew Hit Man from the market.) --Tim Hogan

From Publishers Weekly

a civil suit against Paladin, which they did. As PW reported (News, May 31), Paladin recently settled out of court for an estimated $5 million and agreed to cease publishing Hit Man.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Mason on December 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I often find myself starting another book when I'm in the middle of 12 others, but sometimes one of them is good enough to hold my intention to the exclusion of the others. Deliberate Intent was one. It is the story of a first amendment attorney who crosses over to join a civil suit against the publisher of a book called "Hit Man - A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors." The book was used as a guide for a triple murder. It was worth reading just for the excerpts from Hit Man. They are absolutely shocking.

I understand why some reviewers said this is a book for lawyers: the author often digresses by relating dialogs he had with his students at a law school. I'm not a lawyer, but I found these digressions educational and they usually ended up somehow relating to the story.

I give this only four stars because it wasn't as good as Civil Action to which I give 5 stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By arescott@aol.com on September 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Rod Smolla's book has only been on the market two months and already many readers are vastly separated in their opinions relative to Smolla's actions and opinions.
One review labels Deliberate Intent as "a book for lawyers by a lawyer." While the premise behind the book - a First Amendment lawyer switches sides to sue the publisher of a how-to-commit-murder book - is a controversial one, the book itself is well written.
In today's litany of reviews, it seems that if the reader's opinion of the writer's position is positive, so too is the opinion of the overall book. The reverse is also true.
In this case, the issue at hand is controversial -from a legal standpoint. From a literary perspective, Smolla hits the proverbial nail on the head. This book is about American law plain and simple. It's about the struggles of law, of lawyers and plaintiffs and defendants and judges and the Constitution. It's this struggle that is captured so well in Deliberate Intent.
For the novice legal reader, Smolla interjects passages from his law classes in a perceived effort to educate the novice reader on legal ideology and procedure. This technique works, making the text easy to understand for those uneducated as to the normal legal wranglings associated with civil law.
This book is not a legal textbook and, thus, is not bogged-down with countless case histories, footnotes and attributions.
Few readers will be able to put the book away upon completion and not think of the outcome and continued debate over the First Amendment and its legal implications for all of us.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gauffroi on April 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
The story (which, of course, was true) is very engaging; however, the book had several flaws that hindered my enjoyment:
- There was an excessive amount of typos--all were the kind spell checkers don't catch (e.g. "peels of laughter").
- Details were left out that caused confusion (e.g. how did the Department of Justice report become part of the record on appeal?).
- The law school scenes stretched credibility--all the students' answers were close to perfect analysis, which is not the norm. Clearly class dialogue was edited for the book, but it gave an erroneous impression of the law school class environment.
- The end of the book should have left out the "apology" for making money on the case, which came across sounding somewhat disingenuous. It appeared the author considered the apology obligatory; but if so, why did he throughout the book bring up how impecunious he was? The whole topic could have been left out with no loss, and some gain in focus. Or, the author could actually have been honest and admitted that of course he's human and the possibility of a large payout was a motivating factor. Even altruistic law professors-turned-plaintiff's-lawyers must eat, and it's nothing to be ashamed of (and comports with American values) to risk your time and effort on the possibility of a large reward.
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