Vincent Bugliosi is so obsessed with President John F. Kennedy’s murder he spent 21 years sifting the evidence and wrote more than a million words to find Lee Harvey Oswald did it alone -- the same conclusion reached by the official report 43 years ago.
Bugliosi, who prosecuted cult leader Charles Manson and told his grisly tale in the best-seller “Helter Skelter” and wrote about O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, says other cases pale beside the JFK assassination, which he calls “the crime of the century.”
So significant is the case, he felt it was worth 1,612 pages with 1,128 pages of endnotes; more than 1.5 million words he wrote by hand and dictated for his secretary to type.
Even in a book roughly three times as long as Leo Tolstoy’s ”War and Peace” he admits he never reached the bottom of the JFK evidence pile. But he hopes he has finally refuted the endless conspiracy theories which he says have undermined Americans’ confidence in their government.
“I took the whole thing on. What I found out was there is no bottom to the pile in the Kennedy assassination. It is a bottomless pit, it is endless. I got sucked into the abyss,” Bugliosi said in an interview about his book “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”
“This is the most fascinating story ever told,” he said of the case, which has been a personal obsession since 1986.
All his efforts produce the same conclusion as the Warren Commission which originally investigated the case; Lee Harvey Oswald did the deed alone. So, why tackle the topic?
“It’s not the conclusion you reach, it’s are you more persuasive in the conclusion that you reach,” the former prosecutor said, still trim and energetic despite his age of 72. “Whatever I do, whether it is a summation to the jury or a book, I always aspire to a masterpiece.
Book 'for the ages'
“It was my intent to write a book for the ages. 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,” he said.
A Gallup Poll from 2003 found 75 percent of Americans reject the Warren Commission’s findings, but Bugliosi hopes to turn that tide and undo damage done by conspiracy theorists like Oliver Stone.
The mere mention of Stone’s 1991 film “JFK,” which suggests that three professional snipers killed Kennedy as part of a high-level conspiracy to escalate U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war, sets Bugliosi off.
“People identify Stone with the conspiracy movement more than anyone else,” he said. “Millions of people saw that film. But Stone’s movie is one continuous lie.
“I can amend that by saying he did have the date correct, he had the victim correct and he had the city correct,” he said, launching into a rebuttal of Stone’s movie with all the gusto as if he were back in a courtroom, gesticulating and pulling papers from a file to back up his statements.
“And, he had the stratospheric arrogance to say he wanted his movie to replace the Warren Commission,” he said.
Stone declined to comment on Bugliosi’s book, which includes a 100-page chapter countering the claims made in his ”JFK” movie and a book it was based on.
“I do not believe that any reasonable, rational person can possibly read my book without being satisfied without all reasonable doubt that Oswald killed Kennedy and acted alone,” he said.
Early reviews of the book, published this week by W.W. Norton, suggest Bugliosi may have met his goal.
“From this point forward, no reasonable person can argue that Lee Harvey Oswald was innocent; no sane person can take seriously assertions that Kennedy was killed by the CIA, Fidel Castro, the Mob, the Soviets, the Vietnamese, Texas oilmen or his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson,” The Los Angeles Times wrote. “Bugliosi has definitively explained the murder that recalibrated modern America. It is a book for the ages.”
But aged 72, this may be his final big work.
“This case was just too much. In a sense I bit off more than I could chew. I succeeded, but, my God, there is just no end to this case,” he said. “I’m not going to take on another major work like this again. Not at my age.”