Vincent Bugliosi

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
Died June 6, 2015(2015-06-06) (aged 80)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Attorney, author
Education University of Miami (1956)
UCLA School of Law (1964)
Genre True Crime, History, Politics
Notable works Helter Skelter (1974)
And the Sea Will Tell (1991)
Outrage (1996)
Reclaiming History (2007)
The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (2008)
Notable awards Edgar Allan Poe Award
(1975, 1979, 2008)
Spouse Gail Bugliosi
Children 2

Vincent T. Bugliosi, Jr. (/ˌbliˈsi/; August 18, 1934 – June 6, 2015) was an American attorney and New York Times bestselling author. During his eight years in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, he successfully prosecuted 105 out of 106 felony jury trials, which included 21 murder convictions, without a single loss. He was best known for prosecuting Charles Manson and other defendants accused of the seven TateLaBianca murders of August 9–10, 1969. Although Manson did not physically participate in the murders at Sharon Tate's home, Bugliosi used circumstantial evidence to show that he had orchestrated the killings.

After leaving the Los Angeles district attorney's office in 1972, Bugliosi turned to private practice and represented three criminal defendants, achieving successful acquittals on behalf of all three—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 which occurred on the South Pacific island of Palmyra Atoll. The case was the subject of his 1991 #1 New York Times bestselling book And the Sea Will Tell that he wrote with Bruce Henderson. He turned down opportunities to represent famous defendants Jeffrey MacDonald and Dan White because he did not represent anyone whom he believed to be guilty of murder.[1]

Bugliosi, along with Curt Gentry, authored the book Helter Skelter in 1974, which presented the account of the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of Charles Manson and the Manson Family. He later wrote Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.

Personal life and education

Bugliosi was born on August 18, 1934, in Hibbing, Minnesota to parents of Italian descent. During high school, his family moved to Los Angeles, and Bugliosi graduated from Hollywood High School.[2] Bugliosi graduated from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, which he attended on a tennis scholarship. In 1964, he received his law degree from UCLA, where he was president of his graduating class.[3]

He had two children: a daughter, Wendy and a son, Vince Jr. He often referred to his wife in his books, referencing her understanding and patience with him. He also stated that he was an agnostic, although open to the ideas of deism.[4] After his death, a woman named Linda Alvarez claimed to have carried on a 23 year long affair with Vincent that produced a daughter named Nina, born in 1981, and five grandchildren. According to her, the two allegedly met in 1978 in Tucson, AZ while she was working as a cocktail waitress. She also claimed that they lived together for a time, despite the fact he was married, and that he repeatedly promised to marry her, but never did. She claims that she only revealed this information after his death in order for their daughter to be recognized,[5] although she has no plans currently to sue his estate.[6]

Manson prosecution

As a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, he successfully prosecuted Charles Manson, Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten for the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Steven Parent on August 8 and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca on August 9. [7] He later wrote, jointly with Curt Gentry, a book about the Manson trial called Helter Skelter. The book won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best true crime book of the year, spawned two television movies (in 1976 and 2004), and is the best-selling true crime book in publishing history, with over 7 million copies sold.[2][3]

Political candidate

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.[3]

Writing career

Bugliosi subsequently became an outspoken critic of the media, lawyers, and judges in major trials.

O. J. Simpson case

Bugliosi wrote a bestselling book, Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder, on the acquittal of O. J. Simpson for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman.[8] Bugliosi argues Simpson's guilt and 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, arguing the lawyers were unremarkable and of average ability. He uses these profiles to illustrate broader problems in American criminal justice, the media, and the political appointment of judges.[9]

In the book, Bugliosi is severely critical of prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. Bugliosi argued that a major mistake in the trial was the District Attorney's assigning Clark and Darden to prosecute it. This was because Bugliosi considered the two to be average prosecutors, who lacked the competence and skill to try such a significant murder case as Simpson's. Bugliosi noted what he thought were glaring mistakes made by the prosecution; for example: he faults prosecutors for not introducing the note Simpson had written before trying to flee, which one friend took to be a suicide note. Bugliosi writes that the note "reeked" of guilt, and the jury should have been allowed to see it. He also noted that the jury was never told that Simpson was traveling with his friend Cowlings with a change of clothing, a large amount of cash, his passport, and a disguise kit. Bugliosi criticized Clark and Darden for not allowing the jury to hear the tape of Simpson's statement to police about cutting his finger the night of the murders, in which he prevaricates over his story.

Bugliosi writes that the prosecutors should have gone into more detail about Simpson's abuse of his wife. He writes that it should have been made clear to the mostly African-American jury that Simpson had little impact in the black community and had done nothing to help blacks less fortunate than he. Bugliosi points out that, although the prosecutors knew that Simpson's race had nothing to do with the murders, once the defense "opened the door" by trying to paint Simpson falsely as a "leader" in the black community, the evidence to the contrary should have been presented to prevent the jury from allowing it to bias their verdict.

In several books, including Helter Skelter, Til Death Us Do Part, and And the Sea Will Tell, Bugliosi has written that when preparing a case for trial, he starts with his final summation. In this book, he states that if he had been prosecuting the case, he would have put at least 500 hours of preparation into his final summation. He believed that Clark and Darden had waited until the night before to prepare theirs.

Bugliosi writes at length about the allegations that LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman had planted a bloody glove in order to frame Simpson. He argues that in order for Fuhrman to do this, there would have had to have been a vast conspiracy between Fuhrman and the other officers who worked the case. Bugliosi points out that it was highly improbable that Fuhrman or anyone else involved in the case would have tried to frame Simpson, as California law at the time provided that anyone who planted evidence in a death penalty case could have faced the death penalty themselves (though prosecutors ultimately did not seek the death penalty).

Bill Clinton

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 unburdened by a private lawsuit outweighed Paula Jones's interest in having her case brought to trial immediately.[10]

George W. Bush

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,"[11] 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 more than 4,000 American soldiers who have died in Iraq since the American-led invasion of that country, 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.

JFK assassination

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."[12]

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."[13] The book won the 2008 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.[14]

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.

RFK assassination

Bugliosi is on record for believing that Senator Robert 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.[15]

Method of writing

Bugliosi did not own a computer and at one time did all his research through library microfilm archives.[13] In his later years, he relied on his virtual secretary, Rosemary Newton, to help with these tasks.[13] He also wrote his books entirely by hand, with Newton later transcribing his long-hand texts.[13]


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.[16] He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[17]



In film

Bugliosi has had many of his books adapted to the screen, and appears as a character in several of them.

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


See also


  1. ^ "In Depth with Vincent Bugliosi," C-Span, November 4, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Rebecca Trounson and Elaine Woo, "Famed Manson family prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi dies at 80," Los Angeles Times, June 9, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c David Stout, "Vincent T. Bugliosi, Manson Prosecutor and True-Crime Author, Dies at 80," New York Times, June 9, 2015.
  4. ^ June 14 2011 interview on the Dennis Prager Show
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ The Nation: Vince Bugliosi bio
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Petievich, Gerald (July 6, 1996). "Simpson Prosecution Guilty of Incompetence?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  10. ^ Bennet, James (March 11, 1998). "Testing of a President". The New York Times. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  11. ^ Bugliosi, Vincent (February 5, 2001). "None dare call it treason". The Nation.
  12. ^ The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder: About The Author
  13. ^ a b c d The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder ISBN 978-1-59315-481-3(2008) Acknowledgments
  14. ^ "Mystery Writers of America Announces the 2008 Edgar Award Winners". May 1, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  15. ^ Turner, William W.; Christian, Jonn G. (1978). The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: a searching look at the conspiracy and cover-up, 1968–1978. Random House. ISBN 978-0-394-40273-4.
  16. ^ Noyes, Jack; Goff, Kelly (June 9, 2015). "Former LA Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi Dies at 80". NBC4 Los Angeles – KNBC. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
  17. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2. McFarland & Company (2016) ISBN 0786479922

External links