Contract killing occurs when a private contractor or a government hires someone to kill a specific person or people for a sum of money. Assassins have been hired for many different jobs, but casual society rarely sees contract killings being carried out. Usually such a contract involves a crime syndicate hiring a professional killer, termed a hit man or hit woman. However, governments and individuals also issue contracts to kill, though it is a part of some major organizations that is kept quiet. It also should be noted that an executioner has nothing to do with the concept of contract killing, even though an executioner is indeed paid to kill people. The difference is that a contract killer is hired out of spite or grudge, while an executioner kills as punishment for a crime.
In most countries with judicial systems, a contract to kill a person is unenforceable by law (in the sense that the customer cannot sue for specific performance and the contract killer cannot sue for his or her pay).
Both the actual killer or hitman or hitwoman and his or her customer can be found guilty of homicide. In some jurisdictions with capital punishment, a contract killing may be a special circumstance that allows for a murder to be tried as a capital crime.
Contract killing appeals to some people partially because it can be used to establish an "airtight" alibi for the person who takes out the contract--at the time of the killing, this person can plan to be far away and in a place where many people will see him or her. At the same time, the person who actually commits the murder may have little or no direct connection to the victim, making it much more difficult for investigators to establish what has happened. By contracting out a murder, a criminal can also avoid personally committing murder, which some may be unwilling or incapable of doing, especially if they had a close relationship with the victim.
Contract killings are often, though not always, associated with organized crime, primarily because career criminals are likely to know contract killers and to believe that contracting a murder will lessen the likelihood of being caught. Depending on the region and era, contract killers have frequently been used to silence witnesses testifying against criminals or to eliminate rival criminals or politicians who refuse to take a bribe (plata o plomo - a Spanish phrase meaning literally "silver or lead" which usually translates into "money or bullet" — "accept a bribe or face assassination). The use of anonymous contract killers also mitigates against the formation and continuation of vendettas, which would undermine a criminal organization. An example of this was the use of Murder, Inc. by the Mafia Commission and National Crime Syndicate in the mid-20th century.
Others contract a murder in an attempt to reap some kind of financial windfall--usually as a beneficiary of the victim's insurance policies, or as heir to their estate. However, the most common motive usually involves simply ending an intimate relationship, albeit for a variety of reasons.
Contract killers may make their crime an obvious murder, but may also try to make the death appear to be a suicide or even an accident, or may hide or destroy the body so that it is not clear to authorities that the victim is dead, only that they have disappeared.
Payment for the actual killing (usually referred to as a "hit"), is usually divided by paying part of the total price to the contract killer beforehand, and the remainder after the successful completion of the hit. This is usually done like a security bond or deposit, ensuring for the hit man or hit woman, that they will receive some portion of the pay should the client refuse to pay him or her or other issues arise and client cannot pay the full amount after the killing has been completed, and also to establish a binding relationship between the client and the hit man or hit woman, a relationship ultimately enforceable by murder. Another common arrangement is a reciprocal exchange or barter of contracts, in which two or more parties each agree to kill individuals wanted dead by the other person. In such an arrangement, suspicion is kept from the contracting party for each hit, who will usually have an alibi, as each killing is carried out by persons not known to be connected to the victim.
The actual amount for a particular hit will obviously vary considerably based on such factors as these:
Though figures reported in the media and in criminological studies suggest the usual fee is in the tens of thousands of dollars, this amount is obviously difficult to verify.
In some countries law enforcement agents will sometimes pose as contract killers to arrest the people trying to hire them.
In Thomas Steadman's Flames of the West hitmen are featured heavily, often being portrayed as German, Cuban, Russian or Korean.
In the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, protagonist Tommy Vercetti is hired by an unknown customer referred to as "Mr. Black" to assassinate certain people for reasons unknown. In Grand Theft Auto IV, Niko Bellic works primarily as a hitman, doing hits for various characters during the course of the game.
In No More Heroes, a Wii video game, players take the role of Travis Touchdown, an otaku turned contract killer. Between the fights which compose the game's primary storyline, players may take on "assassination gigs" to raise money. Little or no rationale is provided for most of these hits.
In 2007 video game Assassin's Creed, players take the role of Altaïr, an assassin skilled in free-running, during the period of the Third Crusade. His "hits" in terms of his kills are typically weapon or health upgrades.
In the sandbox RPG video game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the player can have their character(s) join a group of contract assassins called the Dark Brotherhood. To do so, the player must have their character kill an innocent, unassigned non-playable character to attract the attention of the brotherhood. When the character next sleeps, they will be visited by character Lucien Lachance, the speaker of the Dark Brotherhood, and informed that in order to join, the player must kill a man named Rufio. The player can then choose to either ignore the quest, kill Lucien Lachance (which will make it impossible to join the Brotherhood without starting a new game) or complete it in order to join the Dark Brotherhood.
In the anime and manga, Reborn!, the storyline revolves around individuals that are selected to become part of a hitman crime mob.
In Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, Dante (Devil May Cry) is hired by Lucifer to assassinate the Demi-Fiend protagonist, but Dante later decides against it after he becomes suspicious of who or what his client truly is.
In Ludwig Kakumei, Ludwig's step brother Julius sends Lisette, then later Hansel and Gretel to assassinate him.
In the Spongebob Squarepants movie, Plankton sends an assassin known as Dennis to put an end to Spongebob and Patrick's quest to retrieve a crown.
In Persona 3, an assassin organization called Strega, who serve as the antagonists for most of the game, is sent to assassinate random targets and commit other illegal activities via a Revenge Request website. Also, Takaya, the leader of Strega, is seen shooting a teenager (Someone had a "grudge against [him]," according to Jin) who was caught in the Dark Hour.
During the third season of , Prince Zuko sends an assassin called the Combustion Man to chase after Aang and his friends in order to cover up Aang's survival.
Contract Killing: The Devil Is in the Detail ; `the Elimination of the Eliminatee, or Victim, Is the Least Contentious Part of the Deal. '
Feb 22, 2000; YESTERDAY I brought you some details of the sort of contract used in contract killings, kindly vouchsafed by a bent lawyer friend...