NO HEROES, NO VILLAINS: The Story of a Murder Trial by Steven Phillips

NO HEROES, NO VILLAINS: The Story of a Murder Trial

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As the prosecutor in a bizarre 1972 South Bronx murder trial, Phillips is not really able to see all those involved as blamelessly as the title suggests. For one thing, William Kunstler, who defended the accused, one James Richardson, seems to have given Phillips a royal pain in the derriere. True, much of the book is devoted to evidence-gathering, ballistics reports, jury selection--the mechanics of putting together a case. Still, the ""facts"" were both legally and logically aberrant, sufficiently so to make the killing of TA patrolman John Skagen something of a local cause celebre. Briefly: on July 28, 1972, a black man in a dashiki was approached by the off-duty Skagen; they argued, and an exchange of fire ensued. The man, Ricahrdson, fled up the subway stairs shouting ""A crazy man is shooting at mew Was this a desperate man's ploy, or his true perception of what was happening? Two uniformed cops saw Skagen, gun in hand, and pumped three bullets into him. It was Phillips' job to build the tortuous and technically cloudy case against Richardson--medical evidence strongly indicated that it was not bullets from his gun which led to the officer's death. Professionally, Phillips found it a challenge, a complex and exhilarating case for a young prosecutor. In personal terms he recognized it as a tragedy. Kunstler's grandstanding and presentation of the case as a racially motivated frame-up make him furious: in contrast, he cites his own meticulous trial preparations. It'll draw those who revel in courtroom theatrics.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1977
ISBN: 039472531X
Publisher: Random House