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Form of murder
Contract killing is a form of murder in which one party hires another party (often called a hitman) to kill a target individual or group of people. It involves an illegal agreement between two or more parties in which one party agrees to kill the target in exchange for some form of payment, monetary or otherwise. Either party may be a person, group, or an organization. In the United States, the crime is punishable by 15 years to life in a state penitentiary. Contract killing has been associated with organized crime, government conspiracies, and vendettas. For example, in the United States, the gang Murder, Inc. committed hundreds of murders on behalf of the National Crime Syndicate during the 1930s and 1940s.
Contract killing provides the hiring party with the advantage of not having to commit the actual killing, making it more difficult for law enforcement to connect said party with the murder. The likelihood that authorities will establish that party's guilt for the committed crime, especially due to lack of forensic evidence linked to the contracting party, makes the case more difficult to attribute to the hiring party.
A study by the Australian Institute of Criminology of 162 attempted or actual contract murders in Australia between 1989 and 2002 indicated that the most common reason for murder-for-hire was insurance policies payouts. The study also found that the average payment for a "hit" was $15,000 with variation from $5,000 up to $30,000 and that the most commonly used weapons were firearms. Contract killings accounted for 2% of murders in Australia during that time period.
Contract killings also make up a relatively similar percentage of all killings elsewhere. For example, they made up about 5% of all murders in Scotland from 1993 to 2002.
Mad Dog Coll leaving court surrounded by police officers, 1931
Ray Ferritto, Italian American hitman and soldier for the Cleveland and Los Angeles crime families, best known for killing Danny Greene; later he became a government witness and testified against the mob
Robert Young, aka Willie Sanchez, an escaped convict and contract killer employed by The Council, an organized crime outfit and employer of contract killers such as Robert Young aka Willie Sanchez, headed by Nicky Barnes.
Silas Jayne, Chicago-area stable owner, was convicted in 1973 of hiring hitmen to murder his half-brother George.
Tim Lambesis, former vocalist of heavy metal bands As I Lay Dying, Austrian Death Machine and Pyrithion, who attempted to hire someone to murder his wife through a contact at his gym. The alleged "hitman" turned out to be a police officer masquerading as a hitman.
Charlotte Karin Lindström, Swedish waitress/model who attempted to hire a hitman to kill persons testifying against her boyfriend in a drug trial in Australia.
Nothing Personal is a television documentary series that focuses on stories of contract killings.
Fictional cases of contract killing or "hitmen" are depicted in a range of popular fiction genres in the 20th and 21st century, including comic books, films, and video games (e.g., the video game series Hitman, wherein the player controls a hired hitman simply known as Agent 47).