Vincent Bugliosi

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Vincent Bugliosi
Bugliosi at the North Hollywood Branch Library in 2009
Bugliosi at the North Hollywood Branch Library in 2009
Born(1934-08-18)August 18, 1934
Hibbing, Minnesota, US
DiedJune 6, 2015(2015-06-06) (aged 80)
Los Angeles, California, US
OccupationAttorney, author
EducationUniversity of Miami (1956)
UCLA School of Law (1964)
GenreTrue Crime, History, Politics
Notable worksHelter Skelter (1974)
And the Sea Will Tell (1991)
Outrage (1996)
Reclaiming History (2007)
The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (2008)
Notable awardsEdgar Allan Poe Award
(1975, 1979, 2008)
SpouseGail Bugliosi

Vincent T. Bugliosi Jr. (/ˌbliˈsi/; August 18, 1934 – June 6, 2015) was an American prosecutor and author who served as Deputy District Attorney for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office between 1964 and 1972.

He became best known for successfully prosecuting Charles Manson and other defendants accused of the TateLaBianca murders that took place between August 9 and August 10, 1969.

In 1972, Bugliosi left the District Attorney's (DA) office and started a private practice, which included defense cases for criminal trials. He twice ran for the DA's office, but was not elected. He also began his writing career, exploring notable criminal cases.

Early life[edit]

Bugliosi was born on August 18, 1934, in Hibbing, Minnesota to parents of Italian descent. When he was in high school, his family moved to Los Angeles, California. Bugliosi graduated from Hollywood High School.[1] He attended the University of Miami on a tennis scholarship and graduated in 1956. In 1964, he earned his law degree from the UCLA School of Law, where he was president of his graduating class.[2]

Marriage and family[edit]

Bugliosi was married, and he and his wife Gail had two children: a daughter, Wendy, and a son, Vince Jr. Although raised as Roman Catholic, Bugliosi said later in life that he was an agnostic, although open to the ideas of deism.[3]


Bugliosi began his law career in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office in 1964, where he served as a deputy district attorney for eight years, through 1972. He successfully prosecuted 105 out of 106 felony jury trials, which included 21 murder convictions.

Manson prosecution[edit]

As a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, Bugliosi came to national attention for prosecuting the seven murders that took place August 9–10, 1969, in which Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Steven Parent, and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were killed.

Bugliosi successfully prosecuted Charles Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten for these murders, and each was convicted. He was credited especially with gaining conviction of Manson, who had not been physically involved in the murders.[4]

Political candidate[edit]

In 1972, Bugliosi ran as a Democrat for Los Angeles County District Attorney against longtime incumbent Joseph Busch. Joseph Gellman was his legal counsel for this campaign. Bugliosi narrowly lost the campaign. Bugliosi ran again in 1976, after Busch died of a heart attack in 1975, but lost to interim District Attorney John Van de Kamp, who was incumbent.[2]

Private practice[edit]

After leaving the Los Angeles district attorney's office in 1972, Bugliosi turned to private practice. He represented three criminal defendants, achieving acquittals for each of them—the most famous of which was Stephanie Stearns (referred to as "Jennifer Jenkins" in his book), whom he defended for the murder of Eleanor "Muff" Graham on Palmyra Atoll, a South Pacific island.

Writing career[edit]

After leaving the DA's office, Bugliosi wrote, jointly with Curt Gentry, a book about the Manson trial called Helter Skelter (1974). The book won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best true crime book of the year.[1]

It was adapted twice for television movies (one produced in 1976 and one in 2004). As of 2015, it is the best-selling true crime book in publishing history, with more than 7 million copies sold.[1][2]

He has written several other books, mostly dealing with well-known crimes. His works include And the Sea Will Tell (1991), which he wrote with Bruce Henderson about the murder case against Stephanie Stearns. It was a #1 New York Times bestselling book. He later wrote Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (2007), in which he challenged numerous conspiracy theories and explored the events surrounding the assassination. He also wrote The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (2008), a condemnation of former president George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

O. J. Simpson case[edit]

Bugliosi wrote Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder (1996), about the acquittal of O. J. Simpson for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.[5] Bugliosi argues that Simpson was guilty. He criticizes the work of the district attorney, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and Judge Lance Ito. He criticized the media for characterizing Simpson's lawyers as "the Dream Team," and said that the lawyers were unremarkable and of average ability. He used his profiles to explore what he considers broader problems in American criminal justice, the media, and the political appointment of judges.[6]

Bill Clinton[edit]

Bugliosi criticized the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Clinton v. Jones. In his book, No Island of Sanity, he argues that the right of a president to be free of a private lawsuit while in office outweighed Paula Jones's interest in having her case brought to trial immediately.[7]

George W. Bush[edit]

Bugliosi condemned the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Bush v. Gore case that decided the 2000 presidential election. He wrote a lengthy criticism of the case for The Nation, titled "None Dare Call It Treason,"[8] which he later expanded into a book titled The Betrayal of America. Some of his criticisms were depicted in the 2004 documentary Orwell Rolls in His Grave.

He also believed that George W. Bush should have been charged with the murders of the thousands of American soldiers who died in the Invasion of Iraq, because of his belief that Bush launched the invasion under false pretenses. In his book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, he laid out his view of evidence and outlined what questions he would ask Bush at a potential murder trial. Bugliosi testified at a House Judiciary Committee meeting on July 25, 2008, at which he urged impeachment proceedings for Bush. The book formed the basis of a 2012 documentary film, The Prosecution of an American President.[citation needed]

JFK assassination[edit]

Bugliosi is on record for believing that Senator Robert F. Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy. He said the following during a civil trial of the RFK assassination:

We are talking about a conspiracy to commit murder ... a conspiracy the prodigious dimensions of which would make Watergate look like a one-roach marijuana case.[9]

As a result of his research, Bugliosi came to refute conspiracy theories.

In 1986, Bugliosi played the part of prosecutor in an unscripted 21-hour mock television trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. His legal opponent, representing Oswald, was the well-known criminal defense attorney Gerry Spence. London Weekend Television sponsored the mock trial, which followed Texas criminal trial procedure. It also included a former Texas judge and a jury of U.S. citizens from the Dallas area which reviewed hundreds of exhibits and listened to witnesses who testified about the assassination. The jury found Oswald guilty. Spence remarked, "No other lawyer in America could have done what Vince did in this case."[10]

The program required extensive preparation by Bugliosi and inspired him to later write a comprehensive book on the subject of the assassination. His 1,612-page book (with a CD-ROM containing an additional 958 pages of endnotes and 170 pages of source notes), Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, was published in May 2007. His book examined the JFK assassination in detail and drew on a variety of sources; his findings were in line with those of the Warren Report, which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of the 35th President. He called Reclaiming History his "magnum opus."[11] The book won the 2008 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.[12] A portion of the book was re-published in 2008 as Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which became the basis of the 2013 film Parkland.

The title of Reclaiming History derived from Bugliosi's belief that the history of the Kennedy assassination has been hijacked by conspiracy theories, the popularity of which, he asserted, has a pernicious and ongoing effect on American thought:

Unless this fraud is finally exposed, the word believe will be forgotten by future generations and John F. Kennedy will have unquestionably become the victim of a conspiracy. Belief will have become unchallenged fact, and the faith of the American people in their institutions further eroded. If that is allowed to happen, Lee Harvey Oswald, a man who hated his country and everything for which it stands, will have triumphed even beyond his intent on that fateful day in November.

— Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History, p.1011.

Method of writing[edit]

Bugliosi did not own a computer and at one time did all his research through library microfilm archives.[11] In his later years, he relied on his virtual secretary, Rosemary Newton, to help with these tasks.[11] He also wrote his books entirely by hand, with Newton later transcribing his long-hand texts.[11]


Grave of Vincent Bugliosi at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale

Bugliosi died of cancer at age 80, at a Los Angeles hospital on June 6, 2015.[13] He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[14]



In film and television[edit]

Many of Bugliosi's books have been adapted to the screen, and he appeared as a character in several of them.

He also appeared as himself in the 1973 documentary film Manson.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rebecca Trounson and Elaine Woo, "Famed Manson family prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi dies at 80," Los Angeles Times, June 9, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c David Stout, "Vincent T. Bugliosi, Manson Prosecutor and True-Crime Author, Dies at 80," The New York Times, June 9, 2015.
  3. ^ June 14 2011 interview on the Dennis Prager Show
  4. ^ The Nation: Vince Bugliosi bio
  5. ^ Bugliosi, Vincent (1996). Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away with Murder. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 356 pgs. ISBN 978-0393040500.
  6. ^ Petievich, Gerald (July 6, 1996). "Simpson Prosecution Guilty of Incompetence?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  7. ^ Bennet, James (March 11, 1998). "Testing of a President". The New York Times. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  8. ^ Bugliosi, Vincent (February 5, 2001). "None dare call it treason". The Nation.
  9. ^ Turner, William W.; Christian, Jonn G. (1978). The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: A Searching Look at the Conspiracy and the Cover-Up, 1968-1978. Random House. ISBN 978-0-394-40273-4.
  10. ^ "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder: About The Author". Archived from the original on August 28, 2008. Retrieved June 11, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder ISBN 978-1-59315-481-3(2008) Acknowledgments
  12. ^ "Mystery Writers of America Announces the 2008 Edgar Award Winners". May 1, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  13. ^ Noyes, Jack; Goff, Kelly (June 9, 2015). "Former LA Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi Dies at 80". NBC4 Los Angeles – KNBC. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  14. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2. McFarland & Company (2016) ISBN 0786479922

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