Vincent Bugliosi, a Range kid who left his mark on the world

The author and attorney Vincent Bugliosi was born and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota. He died June 8 at the age of 80.

The author and attorney Vincent Bugliosi was born and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota. He died June 8 at the age of 80.

The most commercially successful author ever to hail from Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range region was Vincent Bugliosi. An accomplished Los Angeles attorney, the man who prosecuted Charles Manson and wrote on topics from conspiracies to philosophy, Bugliosi died Monday at the age of 80.

His book “Helter Skelter,” an account of his involvement in the Charles Manson case, remains a bestselling true crime classic.

The Duluth News Tribune published a full obituary, though the diverse nature of Bugliosi’s career has placed the story in Rolling Stone and on wire services everywhere.

The first obituary makes reference of Bugliosi’s love of tennis, something that possessed him at a young age. A tennis star at Hibbing High School, he transferred to a high school in California his senior year near his older brothers to play the sport competitively and earn a college scholarship. In a 1998 speech at Hibbing High School, he said while he loved the people back home, California’s weather always kept him there. You can’t play tennis in the snow.

My grandfather Marvin Johnson, a contemporary of Bugliosi’s, is from Keewatin just west of Hibbing. Still lives there. In the early 1950s, he remembers working on a road crew on summer break with guys from all over that part of the Mesabi Range. He recalls a striking, tan, lean Italian kid who pulled up to the side of the road and emerged wearing a tennis shirt and sharp-looking shoes. He worked a whole day that way, but didn’t come back the next morning. Later, someone heard he moved to California. Much later, grandpa saw his name on a book jacket. He read every book the man ever wrote and told me I should read them too.

That man was, of course, Vincent Bugliosi, one the many, but perhaps one of the brightest lights to streak forth out of the cauldron of Minnesota’s Iron Range.


  1. Gerald S says

    Bugliosi wrote a lot of good books, but my personal favorite, although much less entertaining than others, was his short commentary on the O.J.Simpson trial placing the blame for that famous miscarriage squarely on the shoulders of the sitting District Attorney, who chose to move the trial from its normal Brentwood jurisdiction to downtown LA in order to be able to “drop in” for publicity appearances he hoped would aid his plan to run for either state Attorney General, mayor of LA, or governor, thereby guaranteeing a jury much less sympathetic to his case, and on prosecutor Marcia Clark, who in consultation with her boss created a theory of prosecution that alienated much of the jury, prepared poorly and botched handling of several major issues, and chose to ignore the advice of the foremost national expert on jury selection — who had volunteered his time and services for free. Clark chose to seat as many older African American women as she could, despite the advice that they would likely be unsympathetic to her case, and ignored advice to try to seat as many older men, especially city, state, and federal workers, as she could. She also chose to allow her technical experts to drone on for days, boring the jury out of their skulls and thereby negating a lot of their evidence, and of course failed to discover and prepare for dealing with the fact that one of the major police investigators had openly described himself in the official record as racist and hostile toward Blacks during an effort to get a psychological disability to allow him to retire early, thereby trashing his own performance in the case.

    Those mistakes, in Bugliosi’s opinion, set the stage for the Johnny Cochrane defense and the verdict that shocked so many. Bugliosi felt that the result was not a surprise, given the incompetence of the entire prosecution team.

    As it happens, I know someone who has worked directly with Marcia Clark in the last few years, and he assures me she still is just as arrogant and just as incompetent as she was when she botched the trial.

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