Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Curious Vanity Fair Article on Stephanie Lazarus, Part II

Cover of Vanity Fair's July 2012 issue.

Complete Series on Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Article HERE.
UPDATE June 27th, 2012: for correction of rebuttal date

This has been a busy month for news in the Stephanie Lazarus case.
First, Mark Bowden’s long rumored article on the Lazarus case was published in the July issue of Vanity Fair.  The full article went up on VanityFair.com on June 14th. On June 2oth, I obtained Stephanie's prison booking photo.  Later that same day, I posted Part I of my review of Bowden's Vanity Fair article, in which I set the record straight on numerous factual errors.

Reading the Vanity Fair article, I had to wonder about some of Bowden's more subjective descriptions of Stephanie Lazarus.

I can hear it now that some people will say that these criticisms are not nearly as black and white as the factual errors and deviations from the official transcript of Stephanie's interview. However, having sat through the entire trial, a few passages made me scratch my head in puzzlement. For example:

Stephanie Lazarus’ LAPD Career

Here is the second paragraph in Bowden’s article, where he describes Stephanie's career:

Vanity Fair Article Page 124:

Deputy District Attorney Shannon Presby has been involved in the prosecution of the case ever since Lazarus’ arrest in June 2009.  It would be my guess that during the nearly three years of extensive preparation the prosecution conducted in this case, Presby and his co-counsel, DDA Paul Nunez, probably better than anyone, had a deep understanding as to who Lazarus was and what her colleagues thought of her. On March 5th, 2012, in his closing rebuttal argument at the end of the trial, DDA Presby described Lazarus’ LAPD career for the jury with these words:
"You've heard she was a police officer, she was well liked by her family and friends. That's it. You haven't heard anything about the defendant that makes her exceptional in any way. You have the defendant's personnel file. It's been marked in evidence, introduced by the defense. Look at it. Look at her commendations. What are they? Does it say anywhere in there, 'Oh, Stephanie Lazarus caught a serial killer'? No. 'Solved a murder case?' No. 'Stephanie Lazarus helped out with a barbecue. Stephanie Lazarus helped out with a golf tournament.' I don't want to be cruel, but at best she was a B, nothing exceptional..."
During the trial, numerous LAPD officers (both on-the-job and retired) who were reading my coverage of the case contacted me. I was also contacted by several T&T readers outside the LAPD who knew Stephanie and shared with me their impressions. Her LAPD colleagues described her to me as dedicated and hard working. One told me Stephanie was “like a dog with a bone," when it came to working her cases. Several officers told me about her hyperactive personality, which was reflected in her nicknames: "Crazy Steph" and "Snacks."  Not a single LAPD officer described her to me as anything like "legendary," "perfection," or “a privilege to know.”

My question is, who did Bowden speak to that described Stephanie Lazarus in this way?  The article doesn’t say.

Inside Stephanie Lazarus' Mind
In numerous places in his Vanity Fair article, Bowden ascribes thoughts and feelings to Lazarus during her pre arrest interview.  Here are a few:

Vanity Fair Article Page 124:

Vanity Fair Article Page 125:

Vanity Fair Article Page 128:

Vanity Fair Article Page 129:

How did Bowden get inside Stephanie Lazarus’ head? Is it possible he scored an interview with Stephanie? The article leaves the impression he did, but it doesn’t say either way.  I for one, would love to know.


ritanita said...

I have to say that I had similar thoughts as I read the article. Bowden's description of Lazarus and her apparent thoughts seem to have come out of thin air.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Sprocket 100 percent.

Maddie said...

Bowden's take on this would be great, if it were a work of fiction.
Enough said.

Anonymous said...

As a regular, 15+ yr reader of VF, I have noticed that when readers write in to challenge the author of an article, VF often publishes the author's response. Betsy, are you planning to send a letter to the editor about MB's article on SL? Would be good to hear his explanation.

Anonymous said...

Enough said by Sprocket, maybe, but not by Bowden and Vanity Fair. Their attempted exploitation of this tragedy is disgusting, and their silence in the face of your posts is damning and conspicuous.

Thank you Betsy for your dedication and commitment to truth and accuracy in reporting. I can see why the Van Nuys homicide guys are grateful to you.

I hope you keep going with your series.

Maddie said...

I hope I wasn't misconstrued -- I didn't mean "enough said" by Sprocket -- I just meant enough said about Bowden's "reporting." I look forward to even more of Betsy's corrections.

Anonymous said...

I am not LAPD. I knew Stephanie. It was not a privilege to know her, it was a challenge.

An assertive, sometimes even aggressive individual, Stephanie was a Don't Mess With Me lady. "Couldn't help but like her?" I don't think so, Mr. Bowden. Forgive me for employing another cliche but when you were dealing with Stephanie, it was My Way or the Highway.

I'm left wondering how this strong personality will serve her in incarceration. An asset? Or will every interaction be a contest?

I agree, Betsy. Who the heck did he interview? Her family?

Anonymous said...

Will you ever post any of the information that you received from Stephanie's friends (on and off the job) that had contacted you? I think your readers are anxious to hear their comments.

Anonymous said...

What about the information from all of her friends (on and off the job) that contacted you. Will you ever post what they had to say, or are you waiting until after Matthew's book comes out (I am sure that he will have the same information)?

tina from sphilly said...

@ Anonymous who knew stephanine but was not lapd...WOW.. please tell more..verry interesting to hear from someone who actually knew her and her true personality...seems your take on her personality fits the crime !!!! pelase tell more!!

LDavis said...

All your jealously of the VF article and assumed monopoly on the subject founded on your being in the courtroom is bordering on OCD, enough already. I am so turned off T&T now because of it. The first Anonymous commenter a couple weeks ago had it right when they said the VF article was riveting, it was, and a fresh perspective despite its trivial inaccuracies, whatever, the crux of the crime was there, and more that has not been on your blog. Your coverage was, despite your own errors, very good but the compliments and self praise are getting a little much. You were rude to the Anonymous commenter with your jealous response which was noticeable enough, and has not let up. I have found so many mistakes in your own writing ranging from inaccuracies to sloppy typing. Professional bloggers do not post in a hurry for any reason and edit later, and oh yea, the Jennifer Flowers/Jennifer Francis mistake was repeated again with no correction that time. You were thinking of Gennifer Flowers from 1992. I'm tired of reading your once good blog now because of all the obsessive compulsive attacks on the VF reporter. He's great and more professional despite the cowboys' praise of your work. I also find the comments you allow to be posted, many of them anyway, crass and ignorant. The photo of SL was not necessary and tacky, feeding a shark frenzy is all you succeeded in doing by posting it. Obviously your intention.

Anonymous said...

God Betsy that previous poster that said that you were "jealous" was over the top. So somebody points out numerous errors in a tabloid-y "story" and thus they have issues themselves?

One of the reasons I got over reading "true" crime paperbacks was the presumptions made by the author, claiming to know what the suspect/killer/culprit was thinking. In most of these books, the convicted person never granted an interview. So what was the paperback writer to do? Make it up, of course.
-Wes J.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that no one else in the media has picked up on this story yet. Sooner or later Vanity Fair will have to defend Bowden's article. Otherwise they are sending the message that VF condones changing facts & quotes to make its stories "better". No big deal maybe in a puff piece about some celeb. But in an article accusing the LAPD of destroying evidence to protect Lazarus??? Pretty ballsy.

NancyB said...

Does anyone know if Bowden attended the trial on an occasional basis? I just can't remember if he was one of the journalist's that popped in sporadically. I do remember that Matthew & Betsy were there on a daily basis and the awesome Pat Lalama was a regular as well.

How odd that Bowden actually quotes Lazarus but makes no mention of ever interviewing her. Very curious.