Monday, July 2, 2012

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

Editorial cartoon © 2012 by Thomas Broersma ( All rights reserved by the artist. Full disclosure: This drawing is satire, not investigative journalism. It is unknown if CA inmate # WE4479 is a Vanity Fair subscriber.

Complete Series on Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Article HERE.

Continued from Part II...

I am not a famous writer. I don't have an editor, a fact-checker, or an unlimited budget.

I'm just a semi-retired housewife with a blog. However, I attended every hearing in the Lazarus case since February 2011. Watching the trial and getting to know many of the people impacted by Sherri Rasmussen's murder was an extremely intense and heart wrenching experience. I have such respect for the Rasmussen family, the attorneys, and all the LAPD detectives who worked on this case.

Since I published Part I and Part 2 of my review of Mark Bowden's article on the Lazarus case in the current issue of Vanity Fair, several T&T readers have asked if Mark Bowden attended the trial. As far as I know, Bowden did not attend a single court hearing between Stephanie's arrest in June 2009 and her sentencing in May 2012.

Robbery-Homicide Division Detectives Gregory Stearns and Dan Jaramillo are the stars of Bowden's article.  As anyone who's watched the video knows, their interrogation of Stephanie Lazarus was masterful and truly one for the textbooks. Reading the article, I found it strange that Bowden repeatedly got inside Stephanie's head, but not Stearns or Jaramillo. Bowden does not quote either RHD detective, except off the video tape which Judge Perry released to the public in November 2010.

Given the curious absence of Stearns and Jaramillo's personal perspectives, I had to wonder: Did Bowden interview them about their experience that day? So I made a few calls.

I began with Detective Stearns. I can confirm that he was not interviewed for the Vanity Fair article.

I then decided to dig a little deeper, and can report to my readers that none of the following people were interviewed by Bowden:
  • Robbery-Homicide Detective Dan Jaramillo.
  • Detectives Rob Bub, James Nuttall, Marc Martinez or Pete Barba (the Van Nuys Homicide Unit that solved the case).
  • Retired LAPD Detective Phil Morritt (who apparently checked out physical evidence in 1993).
  • Anyone in the Rasmussen family: Nels, Loretta, or Sherri's sisters, Teresa and Connie.
  • John Ruetten, Sherri Rasmussen's widower.
  • Jayne Goldberg, Sherri's closest friend.  
  • Deputy District Attorneys Shannon Presby or Paul Nunez.
  • John Taylor, the Rasmussen family attorney.
  • Stephanie Lazarus' defense attorney Mark Overland.
  • Stephanie Lazarus.
Since Bowden didn’t attend the trial, and didn’t interview any of the principals above, it begs the question: What did Mark Bowden base his article on?  The article doesn't say, and this Vanity Fair reader would love to know.

....Continued in Part IV....


Maddie said...

LOVE the cartoon! (Oh, and the disclaimer/disclosure, too.)

Happy and safe holiday, everyone!

Maddie said...


Thank you for this latest information. Vanity Fair needs to offer a retraction for the entire article! Honestly -- what were they thinking??

Maddie said...

One final comment (and to give Mr. Bowden the benefit of MANY doubts) -- perhaps he's psychic?

(Yes, I'm being facetious.)

Still would have enjoyed his piece as a work of fiction, though.

ritanita said...

I do have to wonder what his sources were, other than the video of the interrogaion and information out in MSM and the blogs. KWIM?

ritanita said...

I must say, Thomas Broersma has a good shot at a fine career as a courtroom artist. Thanks so much for bringing him into T&T. He's terrific!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps he based it, in part, on your blog. If that's the case, I think you deserve a reference.

Just saying...


katfish said...

Love the follow up and the cartoon!
Thomas Broersma is very talented! Thanks for sharing his work AND your perspective!

Bwwwaaahhh Maddie....I think you figured it out....Bowden must be psychic!

Anonymous said...

How did he get the full facial shot of Nels and the detectives pictured poised for sleuthing, for the VF article? If he had permission to take or use their photos, wouldn't they have had some input or at least "heads up" that this story was in the works. I'm a bit surprised that Nels would consent to his picture if he had no idea as to the scope of the article. The pictures give me the reader, the sense that they were on board with this. It comes as a huge surprise that they were not interviewed for the article.

Anonymous said...

As a professional journalist for a daily newspaper, we have a process for situations like this.

First, call the writer directly and share your input. If there were errors, he should offer to print a correction. He may disagree with you but you have extended him that courtesy.

Second, write a letter to the editor of Vanity Fair magazine. Keep it under 600 words and list the errors that you believe were printed in the story. Be specific, but concise.

No reputable publication wants to print errors, so they will want to know if that is the case. You can also ask additional questions in your letter such as "Why didn't the author interview XXXXXX or XXXXX for this story?"

The editor or writer may choose to reply to your letter, both privately or in print.

Best of luck.

MT Kris said...

Betsy, Keep doing what ur doing + how ur doing it! I have no doubt you will. I utilize ur site because of it's accuracy dedication + guts just to say it like it is! Very cool. People that accuse u of being jealous, hilarious + dead wrong. Wow, these dislike mongers of u r still reading ur wonderfully accurate blog. Sweet!

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous Professional Journalist:

You forgot to suggest that Sprocket also send a telegram to Bowden and Vanity Fair. I have to think VF is capable of finding her posts on their own. Also not to underestimate Sprocket but I doubt she has Mark Bowden's phone number. Since you're a professional journalist for a daily newspaper, how would you suggest she go about getting it, or his email address?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it is because I so closely covered the real events of the Lazarus trial and because I watched and listened to the real interrogation interview, or whether Bowden's article was just boring on its own, but with the knowledge I had of the trial (through you), I sure found his piece to be flat and boring. Well, no wonder because come to find out, he did no work in seeking information.