LA man convicted of mom’s murder freed from prison
LOS ANGELES — A man who spent 26 years in prison for his mother’s murder was freed on bail Thursday — a week after a judge overturned a conviction she said was tainted by false evidence and sloppy defense work.
Bruce Lisker, 44, was released from Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, near Sacramento, and will return to Los Angeles pending a possible retrial, said his attorney, Vicki Podberesky.
“When the justice system actually works … it’s indescribable,” Podberesky told The Associated Press from her Los Angeles office. She said she worked on Lisker’s case for six years and was “floored” by his release.
Lisker was escorted outside the prison and addressed media at a nearby park. He did not discuss his case but described his newfound freedom.
“This is the best day of my life. It’s just amazing. Absolutely surreal,” Lisker said in a Los Angeles Times story.
Standing beneath a tree, Lisker smiled as he looked at the branches.
“There’s no trees at the prison,” he said.
Several friends greeted Lisker, including one who bought him some clothes so he could change before leaving the prison, the Times said.
Podberesky told the AP Lisker hopes to get a job in the Los Angeles area, noting that he trained in prison to become a paralegal and also has a certificate in hotel management.
Lisker was freed on $200,000 bail after a judge ordered his release Tuesday. He must remain in Southern California, find a job or enroll in school, and have drug and alcohol testing. He also must appear in federal court on Monday to review the conditions of his release.
Lisker spent 26 years and five months in prison. He has been behind bars since his 66-year-old mother, Dorka, was beaten and stabbed to death in her San Fernando Valley home on March 10, 1983. Lisker, then 17, had a history of drug abuse and fighting with his mother.
He lived nearby and claimed he was going to his mother’s house when he looked through a window, saw her on the floor, broke into the locked house and tried to aid her.
Investigators doubted the story, saying he couldn’t have seen her. At his murder trial, they claimed a bloody shoe print belonged to Lisker. He was convicted by a Superior Court jury in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison. The state Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 2003.
Over the years, Lisker confessed to the murder in prison but said he only did so in hopes of getting parole or a plea deal.
In 2005, the Los Angeles Times published an investigation that questioned Lisker’s guilt and concluded the original investigation was sloppy. It reported that a new analysis concluded the bloody shoe print wasn’t Lisker’s.
In March, a U.S. federal magistrate said faulty evidence was used to convict Lisker and that he received an inadequate defense. The magistrate’s report says the defense attorney failed to introduce trial evidence that cast suspicion on an alternative suspect, Lisker friend Mike Ryan, who had a false alibi and a history of violence. Ryan has since committed suicide.
The magistrate also ruled that Lisker’s confessions lacked “verifying details.”
Last week, Phillips overturned Lisker’s conviction, citing the conclusions of the magistrate’s report.
The state attorney general’s office, which is now handling the case, could appeal that decision.
Calls to the office were not immediately returned Thursday, but Lisker’s lawyer said she felt that no appeal would be made. Unless the decision is appealed, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has 120 days to decide whether to retry Lisker.
The district attorney is prepared to retry the case if the state doesn’t appeal, and has notified Lisker’s attorney to have him in court on Aug. 21 for a retrial setting date, said district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.