No heroes, no villains Shelby DiRoma Monroe Community College No heroes, no villains On June 28, 1972, James Richardson awaiting the subway train which would take him to work. He was stopped and ordered to “put up your hands, and get against the wall”. These directions were given by an off duty Transit Authority patrolman named John Skagen. Skagen’s actions seem unprovoked and unnecessary. After a short tussle the two men exchanged shots and Richardson fled the scene on foot.
Two other officers that were on the main street above the subway station were made aware of what was transpiring below and rushed to the scene.
As they approached the entrance of the station, Richardson who was fleeing the scene ran directly into one of the officers. The officer noticing Richardson’s wound attempted to stop Richardson and engaged in pursuit. The other officer continued down into the subway and witnesses Skagen who was in civilian clothes brandishing his gun.
At that moment the officer emptied his gun into Skagen who was able to let off one round prior to the officer shooting him.
Richardson was later apprehended and taken to the emergency room for his wounds. His gun was also retrieved. Skagen was rushed to the same hospital emergency room where he was pronounced dead. Richardson confessed to shooting Skagen and revealed that there were only four rounds exchanged between the two men. Skagen’s autopsy revealed that he had been shot five times and showed eight wounds in total.
The report stated that he had five entry wounds, two exit wounds, and one re-entry wound, but only four bullets were recovered from the body. Richardson was arrested and charged with felony murder, manslaughter in the second degree, attempted murder, and escape in the second degree, felony possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment in the second degree, and criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree. Richardson obtained William Kunstler for his defense. At arraignment Richardson’s bail was set at fifty thousand dollars.
This amount was appealed until it was finally reduced to fifteen thousand dollars some months later by a Supreme Court judge. Richardson’s trial was delayed for twenty seven months before finally beginning in Sept. 1974. The trial was long and was delayed numerous times due to Kunstler’s busy schedule with other demanding trial cases. The delays were also part of Kunstler’s defense strategy. There was an abundance of evidence shown throughout the trial among which was the ballistics test. These test showed that of the five shots that Skagen endured only two were from Richardson’s gun.
After a yearlong trial the prosecutor and the defense gave their summations and the jury deliberated. The deliberation took several days. In the end Richardson was convicted with three of the original seven charges; manslaughter in the second degree, possessing a weapon as a felony, and criminal possessing of stolen property in the third degree. The judge sentenced Richardson to a term no more than ten years for the conviction of manslaughter in the second degree. No more than seven years for the conviction of felony possession of a weapon.
The criminal possession of stolen property was unconditionally discharged and the sentences were to be served concurrently. Kunstler appealed this sentenced and Richardson was allowed to stay out of jail on bail. On April 13, 1976 the Appellate Division reversed the manslaughter conviction and the felony gun conviction. The case was sent back to the original court and Richardson was resentenced to three years in state prison. This book touched on everything we have reviewed in class this semester.
The first half of the book describes mainly the arrest and incarceration details of James Richardson. No Heroes, No Villains relates in many ways to chapter seven- Police and the Constitution: Rules of Law Enforcement in our Criminal Justice book. There were many instances in the book that correlates with the key concepts of this chapter. The fourth amendment plays a major role in No Heroes, No Villains. It seemed that in the book John Skagen had no probable cause in the stop and frisk of James Richardson.
I read no evidence that Skagen had determined a totality of circumstances which would prohibit the stop and frisk. We learned in class that there must be probable cause that can be sustained by four major sources. These sources are outlined as personal observation, of which could not have been the case due to the clothing Richardson was wear at the time of the stop. It was noted that Richardson was wearing a dashiki style green shirt that could easily conceal the pistal in his waistband. The second sources is outlined as information and belief. This was not the case here either.
Since Skagen was not from the particular area the incident took place nor had he worked in the area, Skagen had no prior interaction with Richardson thus proving again that there was no reason for the stop. Skagen also lacked evidence and association as means of probable cause. In my interpretation of the evidence presented in court I found nothing that supported any of these four criteria. Skagen’s actions directly impeded Richardson’s fourth amendment rights. Richardson’s arrest was done by the books it followed every rule listed in our notes about Miranda.
When the case was reviewed in the Appellate Division they too touched on what we learned about in chapter seven of our CRJ book. The Appellate Court decided that the people did not satisfy beyond a reasonable doubt that Richardson’s actions led to the death of John Skagen. In the end Richardson was convicted of criminal possession of a weapon and sentenced to three years in state prison. In this book I was mostly intrigued by the jury selection better known as the voir dire. The main concept of a voir dire is to determine whether a jury can be “fair, impartial arbiters of fact”.
Potential jurors usually are selected from voter registration records for what is commonly referred to as jury duty. In the U. S. , they must be from the same jurisdiction as the defendant. After a pool of potential jurors is selected, attorneys for both sides either suggest questions for the judge to ask, or they ask questions themselves of the jurors. The attorneys for both sides have a limited amount of “peremptory challenges,” with which they can bypass the judge and dismiss possible jurors for any reason. William Kunstler used all of his peremptory challenges and also motioned for more.
Attorneys might also make a “challenge for cause” if a juror expresses a bias. Challenges for cause usually are unlimited and are considered by the judge, who accepts or rejects them. It was interesting to see how easy it is for the prosecution and defense to manipulate the impartiality of the jury during a voir dire. In this case William Kunstler definitely manipulated the jury selection to what he thought would be a “fair” jury for his case. This seemed to be a theme throughout the trial process as the entire trial seemed to build in Richardson favor.
Cite this No Heroes, No Villains
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