September 22, 2009 in City

Retrial ruled out in 26-year-old killing

Man, 44, freed after conviction undone
Matt Lait And Scott Glover Los Angeles Times
 

LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles man whose murder conviction was overturned last month walked out of court Monday a free man after prosecutors announced that they would not retry him for his mother’s 1983 slaying.

“How can you put this into words?” said Bruce Lisker, 44, after a judge formally dismissed the murder charge. “It’s unbelievable.”

In requesting the dismissal, Deputy District Attorney Patrick Dixon said much of the physical evidence had been lost or destroyed and some witnesses have died. Although he said he remained convinced that Lisker was guilty, he acknowledged that he lacked sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial.

For Lisker, the announcement capped a legal odyssey to clear his name in the beating and stabbing death of his 66-year-old mother, Dorka. He spent more than 26 years behind bars before a federal judge in August overturned his conviction, ruling that he had been prosecuted with “false evidence” and that his original defense attorney did not represent him adequately.

The judge’s findings mirrored those of a 2005 Los Angeles Times investigation, which raised questions about key elements of the prosecution’s case against Lisker and exposed the Los Angeles Police Department’s investigation as sloppy and incomplete.

After the federal judge’s decision, the district attorney’s office pressed forward with plans to retry Lisker.

Monday’s hearing was supposed to be a routine session to discuss pretrial matters and determine which judge would handle the case. Instead, Dixon entered the motion to dismiss the murder charge, which Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza granted. Before Monday’s dismissal, Lisker saw his immediate future dominated by court hearings and fighting to prove his innocence.

“It was a continuation of the nightmare that had begun 26 years ago, but I told myself, ‘I’m gonna survive this,’ ” Lisker said.

Because there is no statute of limitations on murder, prosecutors could refile against Lisker, if, for example, new evidence emerges.

Since being released on bail, Lisker has tried to resume a normal life. He bought a cell phone and computer and plans to become a Web designer. He got his first ATM card. He enrolled in a computer course. He aced the written portion of his driver’s exam, he said, and was waiting to take the driving portion of the test.

“I’m just trying to catch up,” he said.


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