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Paperback No Heroes, No Villains: The Story of a Murder Trial Book

ISBN: 039472531X

ISBN13: 9780394725314

No Heroes, No Villains: The Story of a Murder Trial

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Book Overview

On June 28, 1972 in a South Bronx subway station, John Skagen, a white off-duty policeman on his way home, suddenly and without apparent provocation, ordered James Richardson, a black man on his way... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

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No Heroes, No Villains... That's Debatable

No Heroes, No Villains No Heroes, No Villains is the story of a trial conducted in 1972 in the Bronx, New York. The story is told from the perspective of an assistant district attorney in the Bronx, the author of the book, Steven Phillips. The trial is the state of New York v. James Richardson; a young black man accused of (among other things) the murder of Transit Authority Officer John Skagen. At the end of June 28th, 1972, a John Skagen lay dead at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. James Richardson sat wounded in a different part of the very same hospital, where he happened to be an employee, being questioned by several detectives on his account of the events which took place that afternoon. The book starts out from the very beginning - a long chain of events which started months before the death of John Skagen that fateful evening, and follows through to the final decision of the grand jury on Phillips case against Richardson. This book is not just about a murder trial, but clues the reader in to the various social, political, and economic issues occurring in the early 70's urban sprawl environment. Rather than presenting information to readers without context, Phillips provides background information to the general occurrences and feelings of the day, to which only someone who lived in the Bronx at that time would have been witness. Steven Phillips authority in this case is probably the greatest credit to this book. He was the chief prosecutor on the case and compiled boxes of information on everything - police officers involved, the many witnesses, and ballistics information to name only three. Phillips presents the information in an easy-to-read format which is accessible to both scholarly readers and general audiences of interest. The book reads quickly, and lends itself to this through both easy and understandable language and chapter organization. Information is organized in chronological order, with each chapter devoted only to one subject, thirty-two in all. The authority of Steven Phillips is most likely the greatest negative to this book as well. Readers should remind themselves that all information in the book is being selected and translated at least in part by Phillips' particular personal, sociological, and professional lens. ...I discovered that, try though I might, I was not always objective and dispassionate in the evaluation of my cases. My likes and my dislikes could affect my judgment, and it was humbling to realize that something as trivial as the state of my digestion might have an influence on whether or not a man went to jail. I came to realize how truly difficult it is to be just (66). Though it seems to be a well-balanced and fair recollection of the crime, investigation and trial, a responsibility is put on the active reader to question the information as it comes to them, and maintain a critical eye. Some may find this an unwelcome and unavoidable burden. That being said, this reader still r

No Heroes, No Villains Book Review

When my professor told our class about this book we would read later in the term, I was immediately interested in reading it as soon as possible. I was already taking many sociology classes and one of them specifically focused on race relations in the United States and Steven Phillips's perspective helped shed some more light. In No Heroes, No Villains, we are immersed in the 1972 society. Recent events included the Civil Rights Movement, GLBT civil rights, feminism, Vietnam, Richard Nixon and Watergate, the hippie culture, environmentalism, changing family structure and dynamics, economic recession, and the AIM movement. All of these national events affected the criminal justice system in different ways and it was evident in this case. This book was not only about racial inequality in the U.S. and its criminal justice system, but the fight for human and civil rights while balancing the justice system, crime control, due process, and the generality of law. Steven Phillips, the Assistant District Attorney, author and prosecutor for the James Richardson case provides an enthralling read for those studying or just fascinated by law and society. He not only makes it an enjoyably easy read by keeping the chapters short and concise, but includes a plethora of first-hand information about the criminal justice system. He paints a detailed picture of the struggles in the criminal justice system, such as heavy case loads and not enough resources and how sometimes we must result to delays and plea bargains, both of which can stifle justice. My favorite passage from Phillips learning about the Richardson case amongst a pile of thirty-one other cases denotes the mystification of justice in our country: "The Bronx Criminal Court was a crucible which melted down and transformed my sensibilities. There was no time to even attempt to do justice to the cases that came before me. There was no real information available upon which to make intelligent--let alone fair--decisions. There was nothing except a vast caseload, and a never-ended pressure to dispose of it rapidly. I saw judges with great reputations as civil libertarians threaten defendants in minor cases, and sometimes even withhold realistic bail from them, in an effort to force the guilty pleas that would beef up their so-called "batting average" of dispositions. I saw some defense lawyers put off, or even destroy, dispositions favorable to their clients because they had not "been visited by Mr. Green"--meaning that they had not yet been paid their fees...In a short time, the faces became faceless, and the cases began to merge with one another in my mind. I came to understand what it was to be powerless. The defendants and victims were powerless, and it dawned on me that I, too, was powerless, unable in the final analysis to do anything to appreciably improve the quality of life in Bronx County" (pp.65-66). All in all, while we must remember that Phillips is only giving his perspective

Efficient and Effective Introduction

This book is entertaining, accessible, and rewarding to read. In three or four hours, you may acquire or brush up on the basics of criminal prosecution in 1972 New York City. Although the case is dated, the racial and due process dilemmas that Mr. Phillips (prosecutor in the case) poses endure, so the book remains pertinent. Readers will puzzle along with Mr. Phillips and the jury. Readers may even reach different conclusions from those of the jury and of the prosecution. Mr. Phillips does not flatter defense attorney William Kunstler but does not defame him too much. The intertwined stories are by turns poignant and portentous.

No Heroes No Villains. Good Book

I'm in 12th grade and we had to read this book for our Law and Government class. This book was really good. It helped me really understand what our court system is like. Like when Steven Philips discribes everything that he did in his case how the jusry was selected. What the Public Defender was basing the whole case on. What he thinks happend in the shooting of Skeagen. If you want to know more about our court systems. This is the book to read. Very interesting
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