January 2, 1979: Punk Rocker Sid Vicious’s Murder Trial!

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A Brief History

On January 2, 1979, the murder trial of punk rock legend Sid Vicious began.

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find that the trial never came to a conclusion.  It was not because of a mistrial or legal wrangling, but because Vicious killed himself with a heroin overdose before the trial ended!

Sid Vicious, born John Simon Ritchie, was a famous punk rock star with the group, Sex Pistols.  It is hard to say if Vicious committed suicide or died of an accidental overdose, but in light of previous suicide attempts and claiming that he and his girlfriend had made a suicide pact implies that he intentionally overdosed.  In any case, it was his mother who supplied Vicious with the drug!

The murder victim for whom Vicious was being tried for murdering was his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.  Vicious and Spungen were reportedly not strangers to domestic violence with friends claiming they both engaged in violent behavior.

At the time of the murder, Vicious was in a heavily drugged state, and although he confessed to killing Spungen, not everyone believes he committed the act.  Johnny Rotten (you almost cannot make these names up!), band mate of Vicious, is one who will not believe Vicious was guilty and his mother later said she found a suicide note in his pocket.

One way or the other, Spungen had been stabbed to death with a knife bearing a carved jaguar on the handle that Vicious bought or that Spungen had bought for him.  Vicious owned other knives, but wanted this particular one because it was bigger and therefore he thought it was more effective for protecting himself from street thugs.

Being despondent about the death of his girlfriend did not stop Vicious from picking up a new girlfriend within weeks!  He also managed to get arrested again while out on bail (for assault) and was at a party celebrating his release on that charge when the overdose occurred.

Vicious was cremated but remains a major legend of the punk rock genre.  A British film starring Gary Oldman as Vicious, Sid and Nancy, came out in 1986 and there are numerous other films and books about this colorful character.  Johnny Rotten manages to survive to this day.

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you enjoy a musician’s music less if you know he or she has a criminal record?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, we recommend the following:

Cox, Alex, dir.  Sid & Nancy.  MGM (Video & DVD), 2000.  DVD.

Spungen, Deborah.  And I Don’t Want to Live This Life: A Mother’s Story of Her Daughter’s Murder.  Ballantine Books, 1996.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.