• Vincent Bugliosi – Manson Case Prosecutor Turns Defense Lawyer

Vincent Bugliosi – Manson Case Prosecutor Turns Defense Lawyer

CHICAGO, Jun. 4 — Vincent T. Bugliosi, the former deputy Los Angeles County district attorney who prosecuted the Charles Manson family, is now on the other side of the courtroom.

“I’d like to try to establish myself as the leading criminal defense attorney in this country,” says Bugliosi. “I feel that I have the tools to do it. I’m very confident that I can do it. My problem is that I have to get the right case.”

Bugliosi, 45, is co-author of “Helter Skelter” and “Till Death Us Do Part,” both books about cases he successfully prosecuted. Together they have sold more than 7 million copies.

He is noted for his dramatic, physically draining summations.

“The argument — taking pieces of evidence and drawing inferences, powerful persuasive inferences from that evidence, to persuade the jury of the righteousness of your cause — to me that’s the single most important part of the case in so far as the lawyers are concerned,” he said.

From early January through mid-March, Bugliosi was in Chicago as one of five defense lawyers for Illinois Attorney General William J. Scott. Scott, who was charged with five counts of filing false federal income tax returns, was convicted on one of the counts.

Some observers believed Bugliosi’s eight-hour closing argument to the 10-man, two-woman jury, spread over two days, was key to Scott’s acquittal on the other four charges against him. Then again, at least one of the jurors said his summation was “too long.”

Bugliosi said he spent between 200 and 250 hours on his final argument in the Scott case.

Bugliosi, a Hibbing, Minn., native, was Minnesota prep tennis champion before moving to Los Angeles for his senior year in high school and winning the city championship.

He went to the University of Miami (Fla.) on a tennis scholarship, served in the U.S. Army and graduated from UCLA Law School in 1964 as president of his class. He was admitted to the California bar the same year and began work in the DA’s office, where he stayed for eight years before moving into private practice.

Bugliosi was professor of criminal law at the Beverly School of Law in Los Angeles from 1968 through 1974. He was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Los Angeles County DA in 1972 and for California attorney general in 1974. He is married, has two children and lives in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Asked who he would obtain as his attorney if he were charged with a crime, Bugliosi said he’d have to choose himself.

“When you ask a tough question like this it has to sound boastful, but the alternative is to lie. And I’m telling you that I would represent myself because I don’t think there’s a lawyer anywhere in this country who does any more homework or any more preparation than I do. I don’t think that’s a boast. I think it’s a fact.”

Bugliosi is critical of other lawyers for not doing their “homework” before and during a trial.

“They get up there and they argue off the top of their heads,” he said. “I don’t know of any lawyer that I’ve ever come across who has bled his case white, as it were — gotten 100 percent out of his case in final summation…

“I am very confident — of course it sounds boastful — that I do that.”

Bugliosi said he is trying to shake his image as a prosecutor but refuses to take cases in which he doesn’t believe.

He said he has received requests to represent several prominent murder defendants around the country but investigated the cases and turned them down because he found “they were just clear, premeditated murders without mitigating facts.”

He said he’s not critical of lawyers who take those types of cases. “But I put my heart and soul into every case. I work 100 hours a week. And I cannot get up in front of that jury and try to talk them into acquitting someone whom I not only believe to be guilty, but if it’s a murder case, where someone’s in a grave and there are no extenuating circumstances.”

Bugliosi plans to continue writing but wants to get away from co-authoring books with professional writers.

“Without them, the books unquestionably would not have been best-sellers. So I have to work on my writing skills a little bit to develop to the point where I can write a best-seller myself.”


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