No Heroes No Villains Book


NoHeroes No Villains Book Summary

NoHeroes No Villains Book Summary

Theimportance of criminal law can never be underestimated as far asensuring the dispensation of justice and maintenance of law and orderis concerned. Criminal law sets out the parameters that would be usedin determination of cases. Of particular note is the fact that whatcould pass as a simple open-and-shut case can involve immense amountsof research, investigation and evidence collection. Further, it isnoted that it is not always the case that the culprit in crimes ischarged. Indeed, there are numerous instances where the wrong personwill be incarcerated, particularly where he or she falls from thewrong race or ethnic group. This is the case for the story ofRichardson in “No Heroes No Villains”.

Writtenby Stephen J Phillips, the novels details the a single dramaticmurder trial while providing a balanced and thoughtful presentationpertaining to the problems plaguing the criminal courts. It alsoexposes the justice mechanics while offering a graphic explanationpertaining to what is right and wrong with the criminal justicesystem. The story is set on 28thJune 1972 at South Bronx subway station, when a white off-dutypoliceman, John Skagen, is heading home. Skagen comes across JamesRichardson, an African American who is heading to work. Suddenly andwith no provocation whatsoever, he orders Richardson to get against awall and lift his hands up as a sign of surrender. It is noted thatRichardson was carrying a gun, in which case there was an exchange offire. Shortly after, Richardson ran away from the scene. However,some two officers heard the commotion at the subway station and ranto the scene. Richardson ran straight to one officer who notices hiswound and pursues him. The other officer goes on down the subway andsees the civilian-clad Skagen with a gun. This makes him empty hisgun on Skagen, who in turn fires a single round. Later on, Richardsonwas apprehended and his gun retrieved. Unfortunately, Skagen diedfrom his wounds with Richardson being charged with the murder.Richardson had confessed to shooting Skagen and stated that the twohad exchanged only four shots.

Theoff-duty police officers who approached James Richardson had quite anumber of functions. First, they were responsible for averting thepossibility of crime commission by stopping and frisking individualsthey deemed suspicious. As much as Richardson had not provokedSkagen, it is not known what suspicions the later had pertaining tothe danger he posed. In essence, he stopped him and sought to friskhim. The other officers, on the other hand, had the duty to preventthe loss of life in the ensuing exchange. However, it seems that theydid not carry out the function appropriately as seen in the fact thatone of the officers simply went on to pump three bullets on thecivilian-clad Skagen even without demanding an identification or thathe puts down his weapon. Further, they were responsible for thecollection of evidence in the scene so as to allow for furtherevidence. Such evidence would have included items such as the spentcartridges and the guns used on the scene. However, it is clear thatthe police did not handle the entire situation appropriatelyconsidering that they went ahead to combat their colleague withoutfirst demanding that he puts the gun down. On the same note, theycould have shot at his legs or other parts that could not have beenfatal.

Nevertheless,correction plays a crucial role in preventing the occurrence ofsimilar incidents in the future. In this regard, they had toincarcerate Richardson as he had confessed to having shot thecivilian-clad Skagen. This would undoubtedly have been wrongconsidering that he did not seek to know who Skagen was prior tousing his weapon on him. Of course, justice was not served in thatRichardson was found guilty of murder despite the fact that officerWieber had fired the lethal shots (Phillips,2010).He had been arrested and charged with murder, second degreemanslaughter, attempted murder, second degree escape, possession of aweapon, second degree reckless endangerment, as well as the criminalpossession of stolen items.

Needlessto say, the investigation and subsequent determination of the caseinvolved collaboration between the varied law agencies including thejury, lawyer and the officers, as well as pathologists. Pathologistswere responsible for carrying out the autopsy of Skagen’s body,where they determined the number of bullets that had entered thebody. This triggered further investigation as it was clear thatRichardson could not have been the sole cause of the death if indeedhe was (Phillips,2010).It is unfortunate that the community would view the actions of thepolice as pretty acceptable simply. Nevertheless, it is understoodthat the neighborhood where Richardson lived was terribly violent,and that the police officers had the almost impossible task ofmaintaining law and order. Such information would undoubtedly makethe reader associate Richardson with criminals.


Phillips,S. (2010).&nbspNoheroes, no villains: The story of a murder trial.New York: Vintage eBooks.