Despite remarkably successful careers as both lawyer and true-crime author, Vincent Bugliosi's enduring fame came as prosecutor in the infamous murder trial of Charles Manson in 1970. Born Vincent T. Bugliosi, Jr. on August 18, 1934, he was raised in Hibbing, Minnesota by his parents, Italian immigrants who worked in the mercantile trade and on the railroad. Bugliosi was an industrious boy who supported himself through a variety of jobs, but also found time to hone a tennis game that brought him a state championship trophy in his mid-teens. When his family relocated to Los Angeles, Bugliosi attended Hollywood High School before earning a tennis scholarship to the University of Miami; there, he gained a bachelor's degree in business administration before studying law at UCLA. After graduation in 1964, Bugliosi joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney office, where he developed a reputation as a skilled prosecutor, winning 21 convictions in murder jury trials without a single loss. On the strength of that track record, Bugliosi was selected in 1970 to lead the state's case against Charles Manson, a petty criminal turned cult leader whose followers were accused of a pair of gruesome murders that electrified the city of Los Angeles and the nation. Manson's acolytes had allegedly shot, stabbed and hung seven people on August 8, 1969, including actress Sharon Tate, whose husband was director Roman Polanski. Over the course of the 10-month trial, Bugliosi successfully argued that Manson had convinced four of his followers - Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten, Patricia Krenwinkle and Charles "Tex" Watson - that the murders would spark a race war between blacks and whites, from which they would emerge as the new rulers of society. Despite intense media scrutiny and the bizarre courtroom antics of Manson and his disciples, Bugliosi secured guilty charges on first-degree murder for all of the defendants, who were initially slated to be executed for their crimes before the California Supreme Court commuted their sentences to life in prison in 1972. Bugliosi left the L.A. district attorney's office that same year, and enshrined his role in the Manson trial by publishing Helter Skelter (1974), a harrowing account of the crimes and the trial. A television miniseries adaptation, "Helter Skelter" (CBS 1976), starred Steve Railsback as Manson. The book became the best-selling true-crime book in publishing history, and led to a successful second career as a non-fiction writer with such Edgar Award-winning titles as Till Death Do Us Part (1978) and Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Bugliosi also mounted several campaigns for the district attorney's office and the Democratic nomination for California state senator between 1972 and 1976, but failed to secure either position. Despite his considerable success as both a prosecutor and author, Bugliosi remained inextricably linked to the Manson case throughout his life and even following his death from cancer on June 6, 2015, with obituaries invariably listing him as "Manson prosecutor."
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Named chief prosecutor in the Charles Manson trial.
Secures guilty verdicts for Manson and four co-defendants.
Leaves L.A. district attorney's office.
Pens <i>Helter Skelter</i>, which became the best-selling true crime book in history.
Wins an Edgar for his second book, <i>Till Death Do Us Part: A True Crime Mystery</i>
Earns a No. 1 best-seller with <i>And the Sea Will Tell</i>
Criticizes the O.J. Simpson trial in <i>Outrage: The Five Reasons O.J. Simpson Got Away with Murder</i>
Wins second Edgar for <i>Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy</i>