Bugliosi, Vincent 1934–

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Bugliosi, Vincent 1934–

(Vincent T. Bugliosi)


Born August 18, 1934, in Hibbing, MN; son of Vincent and Ida Bugliosi; married Gail Margaret Talluto, July 21, 1956; children: Wendy Suzanna, Vincent John. Education: University of Miami, Florida, B.B.A., 1956; University of California, Los Angeles, LL.B., 1964. Politics: Democrat.


Office—8530 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 404, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Agent—American Entertainment International Speakers Bureau, 214 Lincoln St., Ste. 113, Allston, MA 02134.


Writer, lawyer, and educator. Admitted to the California State Bar, 1964; Los Angeles County Office of District Attorney, Los Angeles, CA, deputy district attorney, 1964-72; Steinberg & Bugliosi, Beverly Hills, CA, partner, 1972—. Beverly Hills School of Law, Los Angeles, CA, professor of criminal law, 1968-74. Democratic candidate for district attorney, Los Angeles County, 1972, and for California attorney general, 1974. Also served as executive producer of the 2004 television adaptation of his book Helter Skelter. Military service: U.S. Army, 1957; became captain.


California Bar Association.


Edgar Award, Best Fact Crime category, Mystery Writers of America, 1975, for Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, 1979, for Till Death Us Do Part: A True Murder Mystery, and nominated in 1996, for Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got away with Murder.



(With Curt Gentry) Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, Norton (New York, NY), 1974.

(With Ken Hurwitz) Till Death Us Do Part: A True Murder Mystery, Norton (New York, NY), 1978, reprinted, 2004.

(With Bruce B. Henderson) And the Sea Will Tell, Norton (New York, NY), 1991.

Drugs in America: The Case for Victory, Knightsbridge (New York, NY), 1991.

Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got away with Murder, Norton (New York, NY), 1996.

The Phoenix Solution: Getting Serious about Winning America's Drug War, Dove Books (Beverly Hills, CA), 1996.

No Island of Sanity: Paula Jones v. Bill Clinton; The Supreme Court on Trial, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1998.

The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President, Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Norton (New York, NY), 2007.

Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (first chapter of Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy), Norton (New York, NY), 2007.


(With Ken Hurwitz) Shadow of Cain, Norton (New York, NY), 1981.

(With William Stadiem) Lullaby and Good Night: A Novel Inspired by the True Story of Vivian Gordon, New American Library (New York, NY), 1987.

Wrote and produced the video recording of Absolutely 100 Percent Guilty: The Professional Edition, Platinum Productions (Beverly Hills, CA), 2000.


Several of the author's books have been adapted as television movies, including Helter Skelter, 1976 and 2004, And the Sea Will Tell, 1991, and Till Death Us Do Part, 1992. The Phoenix Solution was made into an audiocassette, read by Joseph Campanella and released by Dove Audio (Beverly Hills, CA), 1996. Reclaiming History has been optioned by HBO for a television miniseries.


His many years of legal experience, first as a district attorney and later as a defense attorney, have given Vincent Bugliosi valuable insight into the way trials for serious crimes are conducted in the American judicial system. Bugliosi became famous during the 1970s when he successfully prosecuted five members of the Manson Family in connection with the brutal 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders in California. Following this case, Bugliosi turned to writing about his experiences, beginning with Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, which Bugliosi wrote with Curt Gentry.

The motive for the seemingly senseless killings, Bugliosi recalls in his book, was encapsulated in cult leader Charles Manson's phrase "helter-skelter"—a vague prediction of a forthcoming apocalyptic war between the races that only his Family, safely inside Death Valley, would survive. Manson was convinced that the Beatles, who recorded the song "Helter Skelter" on their eponymous 1968 album (commonly referred to as "The White Album"), were sending him hidden messages in their music.

In Helter Skelter Bugliosi and coauthor Gentry chronicle the crime, the often-mismanaged police investigation, and the controversial trial. The work is "a valuable book on a lurid subject," according to Time magazine critic Paul Gray. "Through solid documentation [the authors] have constructed a record of savagery and official bungling—a textbook on what can go wrong between the discovery of a crime and its prosecution." A contributor to the New York Times Book Review found more to recommend the book, noting: "Bugliosi's and Gentry's telling is rendered, appropriately enough, in the language of a D.A.: methodical, tight, occasionally ironical and rising to emotional pitch only on rare occasion." The reviewer went on to write that "it is quickly clear … that Bugliosi's concern is at least as much with the intellectual process of investigation and prosecution as with the crime and the criminals themselves."

Some years following the Manson Family trial, Bugliosi was again involved with investigating a sordid murder case and prosecuting it in court. In this case, life insurance payments were the motive when Henry Stockton, "a nondescript Sears clerk," and Judy Palliko, "a lovely recently married young woman," as Walter Pozen described them in a Washington Post review, were found brutally beaten, bludgeoned, and gunned down in Los Angeles. While the two murders initially were thought to be unrelated, a pair of Los Angeles police officers later became "convinced of the complicity of Alan Palliko, Judy's husband, and Sandra Stockton (Henry's wife) in plotting Henry's death in order to collect his life insurance," Pozen explained. Judy Palliko was likewise killed one month after her husband took out a 25,000-dollar term insurance policy on her. "Neither murder would ever yield weapons, fingerprints or eyewitnesses," remarked Newsweek contributor Elizabeth Peer, "but dogged detective work knit the crimes together and a painstaking prosecutor [Bugliosi] constructed a probable-guilt scenario so persuasive that a California jury dealt out the death sentence based on circumstantial evidence alone—a rare courtroom feat."

Chronicling the case in Till Death Us Do Part: A True Murder Mystery, Bugliosi and Ken Hurwitz evoke a nonfictional drama reminiscent of those solved by the fictional Perry Mason, although "Perry Mason makes this kind of case all too simple and in the process deprives us of the true drama and significance of the courtroom," wrote Pozen. "But this is where [the authors'] book comes to life and takes on the proportions which make it so much more than a ‘whodunit.’ Too many of us either forget or do not know the precise way in which we as a society determine human culpability. Bugliosi demonstrates in Part II of the book that the three-and-a-half-month Palliko-Stockton trial, with the state asking for the death penalty, has meaning and dimension beyond fiction." Pozen also noted: "Till Death Us Do Part gives great comfort to all who believe in the heavy responsibilities of the accuser and the fundamental rights of the accused. In leading us through the marvelous and mundane intricacies of a trial for murder, Vincent Bugliosi makes a lasting and often spectacular contribution to public understanding of our criminal justice system."

In 1991, Bugliosi, with coauthor Bruce B. Henderson, wrote And the Sea Will Tell. Like his previous books, And the Sea Will Tell focuses on a case on which Bugliosi himself worked. Based on the 1981 murder trial of Jennifer Lynn Jenkins, a young woman accused of killing a California couple, the book traces the background developments and successful legal defense of Jenkins. Beginning in 1974, Bugliosi traces the story from the time Eleanor ("Muff") and Malcolm ("Mac") Graham III, a wealthy couple from San Diego, sailed their luxury yacht, the Sea Wind, to the deserted Pacific island of Palmyra. The Grahams had planned a prolonged solitary visit to this remote U.S. possession, but they were joined unexpectedly by another couple, ex-convict Buck Duane Walker and Jenkins, who were escaping from drug charges in Hawaii. In October 1974, Walker and Jenkins sailed into Honolulu on the Grahams' ketch, contending that the Grahams had died that past August after their dinghy capsized during a fishing trip in the shark-filled waters around Palmyra. U.S. investigators departed immediately for Palmyra to search for the Grahams, their remains, and/or other physical clues. They found nothing and therefore had no evidence on which to charge Walker and Jenkins with any crime except for theft of the Sea Wind. The accused were tried and found guilty, but Walker's sentence was overturned due to a legal technicality. The case stalled for the next six years until, in 1981, a South African couple exploring Palmyra stumbled across a skull with a gold-capped tooth partially buried in the sand near some other human bones. Forensic tests revealed that the remains belonged to Muff Graham, and Jenkins and Walker were indicted in Honolulu for her murder. Bugliosi was retained for the defense of Jenkins, "and thus begins the heart of the book, a riveting courtroom drama," wrote Dan Byrne in the Los Angeles Times Book Review.

Byrne, who described the narrative as "engrossing" and "compelling," commented that with coauthor Henderson, "Bugliosi constructs a riveting, three-dimensional account of everything that goes into a criminal defense." Although Bugliosi successfully defended Jenkins against the murder charge and managed to lay the full culpability on Walker, other questions remained unanswered. Byrne admired Bugliosi's "superb explanations of the intricacies of trial procedure and criminal law," yet wondered about other unknowns—what happened to Mac Graham? How exactly was Muff Graham killed? How did Walker commit the crimes? The reviewer noted: "Mysteries solved have the character of a dull thud to them. Once explained, they lose their ability to intrigue us. Even after reading, however, [And] The Sea Will Tell refuses to relinquish its grip on our imaginations."

Bugliosi has continued to write passionately about issues in society, politics, and law. He tackled the issue of drugs in his books Drugs in America: The Case for Victory and The Phoenix Solution: Getting Serious about Winning America's Drug War, and returned to the courtroom theme with Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got away with Murder. In this examination of the infamous O.J. Simpson trial, Bugliosi chronicles his view of the many mistakes and incompetencies committed by the prosecutors in their murder case against the ex-football star, sportscaster, and movie actor. Alex Tresniowski, writing in People, called the book "provocative and entertaining" and noted that its "high point is the rafter-rattling summation Bugliosi would have delivered had he prosecuted the case himself." Bugliosi felt so strongly that the case had been mishandled that he also wrote and produced a video about it, aimed at the public and law professionals, called Absolutely 100 Percent Guilty: The Professional Edition.

Bugliosi's more recent books have focused on law and politics. In No Island of Sanity: Paula Jones v. Bill Clinton; The Supreme Court on Trial, he argues against the Supreme Court's decision to allow Paula Jones's civil lawsuit accusing then-President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment to proceed. Bugliosi's argument focuses on the need for leadership that can function without distraction and the U.S. Supreme Court's duty to ensure this freedom in the public's interest.

The lawyer again took issue with a High Court decision in 2001's The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President. In this brief book, Bugliosi argues against the Supreme Court's five-to-four decision to end the ballot recount in Florida, a decision that favored George W. Bush over rival presidential candidate Al Gore. Writ- ing in the Library Journal, Steven Puro commented that Bugliosi "uses passion and argument to establish that the U.S. Supreme Court unlawfully chose George W. Bush as president of the United States on December 12, 2000." Although reviewers detected a certain overzealousness in Bugliosi's arguments, Ilene Cooper noted in Booklist that readers "who give this a fair reading will be fascinated."

In 2007, Bugliosi's comprehensive analysis of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was published as Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In more than 1,600 pages, Bugliosi comes to the ultimate conclusion that conspiracy theorists are off track and that Kennedy was, as long held by official reports, killed by lone assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. In the end, the author spent more than twenty-one years going through the evidence to provide what he hopes is the final argument debunking conspiracy theories that the Mafia, Cuba, Russia, or even the U.S. Government itself was involved in the assassination plot. His dedication to the project began when he appeared in a televised mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald in 1986.

When asked by a contributor to the Crime Rant Web site why he wrote such a voluminous book on a case that is more than four decades old, Bugliosi noted: "There are two realities, one of which is that this is a very, very simple case. Virtually everyone in law enforcement in Dallas knew that Oswald had killed Kennedy and that it appeared he acted alone…. That reality has never changed. But there's a second reality here. And it's funny, isn't it, that you'd have two such contradictory realities about the same event." Bugliosi added that conspiracy theories about Kennedy's assassination have abounded "because of the obsessive fanaticism of literally thousands of assassination researchers." Bugliosi went on to comment: "This case now is the most complex murder case, by far, in world history. There's no other case that even remotely comes close to it."

Bugliosi writes in the present tense and lays out his case in thirteen volumes or sections, with each chapter section headlined by the time of the day that events being discussed occurred. "The present tense narrative pulls the reader into it—beckoning one to feel as if he or she is there while the action takes place. It's a wonderful change of pace," noted the contributor to the Crime Rant Web site. "It was my intent to write a book for the ages," the author told Mark Egan in an interview on the Reuters Web site. "This is a book whether it's a hundred years from now or a thousand years from now that people are going to have to read."

Reclaiming History is broken up into two parts: "Matters of Fact: What Happened" and "Delusions of Conspiracy: What Did Not Happen." The 319-page first chapter, titled "Four Days in November," has also been published in book form as Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and focuses on the four days leading up to and including the November 22, 1963, assassination of President Kennedy. In this account, the author presents a carefully documented account that focuses on proving Lee Harvey Oswald's long guilt in planning and carrying out the assassination. The first half of Reclaiming History recreates the events of the assassination, describes investigations and the gathering and examining of evidence, and explores the Warren Commission, headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, that looked into the assassination. "Bugliosi is a keen analyst of that material; his dissection of the medical evidence is particularly telling," wrote Jim Newton on the Los Angeles Times—Calendarlive.com Web site. Newton went on to write in the same review: "Bugliosi's presentation of this material is so deft, so strong, that there is little need for him to turn his skills against the conspiracy theorists who argue otherwise. But he does."

The second part of Reclaiming History includes eighteen chapters centered on debunking various conspiracy theories, from Mob connection theories to CIA and FBI involvement. In an interview with David Mehegan for the Boston Globe, Bugliosi stated: "I wrote this book for rational people, including conspiracy theorists who are rational," adding: "I'm telling them they have wasted the last ten or fifteen years of their lives." Newton commented: "It is a sight to behold. When Bugliosi lays into a bad argument, he attacks without mercy. He hammers again and again, challenging flawed logic with heavy fists."

Bugliosi's tome on the Kennedy assassination received high praise from many reviewers, although some thought the length excessive. Referring to the book as "a cellular-level re-examination of the assassination," Bryan Burrough, writing in the New York Times Book Review, commented, "This is an awfully easy book to mock." This evaluation, Burrough commented, could be bolstered by the fact that Bugliosi does not come up with anything that is really new. Nevertheless, Burrough noted: "So this is where one expects the reviewer to savage Bugliosi for all those wasted years and pages. Well, I can't do it. The fact is, the darned book is pretty good. Putting aside its … length, I have to say Reclaiming History is in spots a delight to read."

Other reviewers also balked at the book's length but nevertheless noted that it was a considerable and valuable achievement. "Reclaiming History is a magnificent and, in many ways, appalling achievement, a work that, for all the author's liveliness and pugnacity, is destined to be more referenced than read," wrote Thomas Mallon in the Atlantic Monthly. Gilbert Taylor, writing in Booklist, noted: "Destined to be the most significant challenge (save the Warren Report) to conspiracy theories, Bugliosi's study will provoke controversy and debate."

Bugliosi, who lives in Los Angeles, has enjoyed his success as a writer and as a popular and dynamic lecturer. Nevertheless, as he pointed out to Alex Tresniowski during an interview for People, "I'm happiest when I'm in the courtroom."



Great American Trials, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.


Atlantic Monthly, June, 2007, Thomas Mallon, "A Knoll of One's Own: The Most Exhaustive Book Yet Written about the Kennedy Assassination Should Lay the Conspiracy Theories to Rest Once and for All—but It Won't," review of Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, p. 106.

Biography, summer, 2007, Alan Wolfe, review of Reclaiming History.

Booklist, June 1, 2001, Ilene Cooper, review of The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President, p. 1805; May 1, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Reclaiming History, p. 65.

Book World, May 27, 2007, Alan Wolfe, "Goodbye, Grassy Knoll," p. 3.

Boston Globe, May 28, 2007, David Mehegan, "The JFK Files," review of Reclaiming History.

Christian Science Monitor, August 14, 1996, Abraham McLaughlin, review of Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got away with Murder, p. 15.

Daily Variety, May 14, 2004, Brian Lowry, review of Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, p. 9; June 7, 2007, Michael Fleming, "Playtone Electing JFK Tome," p. 1.

Dallas Morning News, May 25, 2007, "Prosecutor: No JFK Conspiracy."

Esquire, November, 1996, review of Outrage, p. 65.

Finance Wire, May 14, 2004, "Hollywood Headlines; Charles Manson Story on CBS; Jethro Tull Remastered, CNN."

Fulton County Daily Report, June 27, 2007, Debra Bruno, "On History's Biggest Whodunit."

Hollywood Reporter, August 4, 2003, Nellie Andreeva, "CBS Focusing on Manson for ‘Skelter" Redo," p. 1; September 19, 2007, Gretta Parkinson, "HBO, Playtone Claim ‘History,’" p. 6.

Houston Chronicle, May 15, 2004, "‘Helter Skelter" Was Great—the First Time Around," p. 10.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007, review of Reclaiming History.

Legal Times, July 16, 2001, Joel Chinesonon, review of The Betrayal of America, p. 24; June 25, 2007, Debra Bruno, "On History's Biggest Whodunit."

Library Journal, June 15, 2001, Steven Puro, review of The Betrayal of America, p. 88; April 1, 2007, Karl Helicher, review of Reclaiming History, p. 100.

Los Angeles Daily Journal, May 10, 2007, Richard M. Mosk, review of Reclaiming History, p. 6.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 1, 1987, review of Lullaby and Good Night: A Novel Inspired by the True Story of Vivian Gordon, p. 12; February 17, 1991, Dan Byrne, review of And the Sea Will Tell, p. 4; July 7, 1996, review of Outrage, p. 4.

Maclean's, June 18, 2007, Anne Kingston, "‘I Really Believe That If Marina Had Agreed to Come Back [to Her Husband] That Night the President Would Not Have Been Shot’: Vincent Bugliosi Talks with Anne Kingston about JFK Conspiracy Theorists, Jackie, and Why Oliver Stone Will Hate Him," interview with author, p. 16.

Nation, December 3, 2001, John Nichols, "Still Time to Impeach the Supreme Court Five," p. 6.

National Post, August 11, 2007, review of Reclaiming History, p. 12.

Newsweek, July 10, 1978, Elizabeth Peer, review of Till Death Us Do Part: A True Murder Mystery, p. 72.

New Yorker, June 4, 2007, review of Reclaiming History, p. 89.

New York Post, May 9, 2007, review of Reclaiming History.

New York Times, May 14, 2007, Edward Wyatt, "Who Killed Kennedy? One Man's Answer," p. 1.

New York Times Book Review, November 17, 1974, review of Till Death Us Do Part, p. 4; July 2, 1978, Evan Hunter, review of Helter Skelter, p. 6; January 8, 1989, review of Lullaby and Good Night, p. 34; February 10, 1991, Karen Ray, review of And the Sea Will Tell, p. 18; March 22, 1998, Wendy Kaminer, review of No Island of Sanity: Paula Jones v. Bill Clinton; The Supreme Court on Trial, p. 14; May 20, 2007, Bryan Burrough, "… or Not?," p. 15; June 17, 2007, "J.F.K.," letter to the editor, p. 6.

People, June 14, 1996, Alex Tresniowski, review of Outrage, p. 29; September 16, 1996, Alex Tresniowski, "Outrage-ous," pp. 202-204.

Prosecutor, Journal of the National District Attorneys Association, November 1, 2004, Karen H. Cather, "Vincent Bugliosi Speaks about Prosecuting Cases," p. 22.

Publishers Weekly, February 24, 1997, review of Outrage, p. 88; May 21, 2001, review of The Betrayal of America, p. 89; July 9, 2001, Daisy Maryles and Dick Donahue, "Botched Ballots II," p. 17; March 5, 2007, review of Reclaiming History, p. 53.

Recorder, August 31, 2007, "History's Biggest Whodunit."

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, May 13, 2004, "CBS Unveils a Sadistic New Manson Family Portrait."

Sulfur, fall, 1996, review of Outrage, p. 139.

Time, November 4, 1974, Paul Gray, review of Helter Skelter; July 2, 2007, David Talbot and Vincent Bugliosi, "The Assassination: Was It a Conspiracy?," p. 66.

UPI NewsTrack, May 22, 2007, "Bugliosi Book Debunks JFK Plot Theories"; June 7, 2007, "HBO Nearing JFK Miniseries Deal."

USA Today, May 14, 2004, "‘Skelter’ Lacks Heart of Darkness," p. 19.

U.S. News & World Report, June 11, 2007, Alex Kingsbury, "The Final Verdict," p. 24.

Variety, June 11, 2007, "HBO's ‘History’ Lesson," p. 2.

Wall Street Journal, July 24, 1996, Walter Olson, review of Outrage, pp. A16(W), A18(E).

Washington Post, June 23, 1978, Walter Pozen, review of Till Death Us Do Part.

Zap2It, August 4, 2003, "Look Out: ‘Helter Skelter’ Is Back."


AEI Speaker's Bureau,http://www.aeispeakers.com/ (January 5, 2008), profile of author.

Court TV News,http://www.courttv.com/ (June 1, 2001), interview with author.

Crime Rant,http://www.crimerant.com/ (January 5, 2008), "Reclaiming Truth: A Crime Rant Exclusive Interview with Vincent Bugliosi."

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (January 5, 2008), information on author's film work.

Los Angeles Times—Calendarlive.com,http://www.calendarlive.com/ (January 5, 2007), Jim Newton, "The Prosecution Rests," review of Reclaiming History.

Nation,http://www.thenation.com/ (January 5, 2008), brief profile of author.

Reclaiming History Web site,http://www.reclaiminghistory.com (January 5, 2008).

Reuters,http://www.reuters.com/ (May 16, 2007), Mark Egan, "New Book Hopes to Finally End JFK Conspiracies."

Telegraph.co.uk,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (December 5, 2007), Tim Shipman "Oswald ‘Was the Sole Assassin of JFK,’" review of Reclaiming History.