Thursday, May 17, 2001

Convicted hit man James Edward Perry escaped a death sentence yesterday when a Montgomery County, Md., jury sentenced him to life in prison without parole for the 1993 murders of a handicapped boy, his mother and the boys nurse.
Perry, 52, had been sentenced to die in 1995 for the crimes, but was pulled off death row in 1999 when his conviction and sentence were overturned by Marylands Court of Appeals because of evidence problems.
The same Circuit Court jury convicted Perry of triple murder last month for killing 8-year-old Trevor Horn; his mother, Mildred Horn, 43; and nurse Janice Saunders, 38, execution-style.
One member of the Horn family put her head in her hands while the sentences for each victim were read. Perry closed his eyes as Judge Martha Kavanaugh read his final sentence.
“He deserved the death penalty, but I can be more than satisfied with life without parole,” said Mary Lou Roberts, mother of Mrs. Saunders.
The Detroit native slipped into Mrs. Horns Silver Spring home March 3, 1993, shooting both Mrs. Saunders and Mrs. Horn in the head. He then suffocated the boy as he lay attached to a respirator.
Perry and Trevors father, Lawrence Horn, schemed to kill the boy so Horn could collect the boys multimillion-dollar trust fund. Horn was convicted in 1996 and is now serving a life sentence.
Perrys attorneys argued throughout the monthlong trial that no physical evidence tied him to the scene.
William Brennan said because of the lack of evidence, there was nothing to prove that Perry was a principal in the first-degree to the murders, a requirement for a death sentence. “Are you convinced that you should kill a man in a case where there is no physical evidence to put him in that house?” he asked jurors during closing statements yesterday.
Former Montgomery County States Attorney Robert Dean, who prosecuted Perrys first trial, said he accepted the life sentence.
“This brings a fair and just end to this case and I hope the families can move on. James Perry is a lucky man that he had a second trial, and he will spend the rest of his days in living hell,” he said.
Mr. Dean also said the second case was weakened by the Court of Appeals decision to disallow a 22-second tape of a phone call between Perry and Horn.
Prosecutors used that tape as the centerpiece of Perrys first trial, playing it numerous times as evidence of a deadly pact between the two. But the high court ruled it violated Marylands wiretapping law.
The crime also sparked a First Amendment fight. Prosecutors argued in both trials that Perry used a hit-man guidebook to plan the killings.Paladin Press, the publisher of the book, “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors,” was forced to pull it from shelves after a lawsuit by the victims relatives.

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