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State lawyers want to postpone Lisker case until after election

Lawyers in state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown’s office want to postpone their bid to send a man wrongly convicted of murder back to prison on a technicality until after their boss’ upcoming election for governor, attorneys said Thursday.

Attorney William Genego, who represents freed inmate Bruce Lisker, assailed the motive for seeking to postpone the controversial matter.

“They are playing politics with an innocent man’s freedom,” Genego said. Jim Humes, Brown’s chief deputy, said politics played no role in the matter. “We would like some more time to think about this,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday. “I know [the attorney general] cares about this case and wants to consider it fully” before making a decision about whether to proceed with the motion.

Lisker, 45, was convicted of killing his mother in 1985. He was released from prison last year after a judge found that he was convicted on “false evidence” and had been inadequately represented by his trial attorney. The judge's findings mirrored those of a 2005 Times investigation that raised questions about key elements of the prosecution's case against Lisker and exposed the LAPD's murder investigation as sloppy and incomplete.

Earlier this month, the attorney general filed a motion seeking to have a judge reverse her decision to overturn Lisker’s conviction because he had missed a deadline years ago by which to file his appeal. The motion was criticized by some legal experts as inappropriate after The Times reported on the legal maneuver. Hours after The Times posted a story on its website about the motion, a spokesman for the attorney general said the office was reviewing the matter and was considering withdrawing it. 

On Wednesday, Deputy Atty. Gen. Robert D. Breton called Lisker’s attorney’s seeking to continue the matter until mid-November, Genego said. He said Breton refused to say why he wanted to continue the matter, which is scheduled to be litigated Oct. 4. Genego said they were willing to agree to an extension until the end of October.

The attorney general's motion to reinstate Lisker’s conviction hinges on a 9th Circuit ruling in a different case decided in July. In that case, a man’s conviction for child sex abuse and sodomy had been overturned by a district court judge even though he had missed a federal deadline in which to file his habeas corpus petition. As in the Lisker case, the district court judge determined after evidentiary hearings that the man, Richard Lee, had met an “actual innocence” exception to the deadline.

In the 9th Circuit ruling, the judges noted the overturning of Lisker's conviction and said there was a “widening split among the district courts of our circuit on whether there is an actual innocence exception.” They concluded that no such exception exists and reinstated Lee's conviction. Because of the Lee decision, the attorney general contends in the motion that U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips should vacate her ruling in Lisker's case. Breton said in the motion that it was filed only after “careful consideration.”

On Thursday, Breton declined to address Genego’s accusation that the request to postpone the matter was politically motivated. “I’m sorry. I can’t provide any more comment or information,” he said. Humes said neither he nor Brown were informed of Breton’s plan to file the motion. He said someone called it to his attention afterward and he thought the move should be reconsidered.

He said he sought the extension with the hope of providing Brown with a complete assessment of the case that would enable him to personally decide whether to proceed with the motion. “To me, a continuation of the hearing is in everyone’s best interests, including — and maybe especially — Mr. Lisker’s,” Humes said. Lisker's legal saga began March 10, 1983, when he said he found his mother badly beaten and stabbed in the family's home in Sherman Oaks and called paramedics for help.

Detectives were immediately suspicious of Lisker, a frizzy-haired 17-year-old with a history of drug abuse and fighting with his mother. His relationship with his parents had deteriorated to the point that they were paying for him to live in a nearby studio apartment. Lisker's conviction was overturned when Phillips concluded that most of the evidence used to implicate him in the crime had been seriously undermined or proved false. For example, a bloody shoe print that prosecutors had used to link Lisker to the killing has since been determined by the LAPD not to have been made by his shoes.

Additionally, an LAPD crime analyst now says a bruise on the victim's head was an apparent shoe impression that did not match the treads of Lisker's shoes but was “similar in size and dimension” to the mysterious bloody shoe print found in the house. In the year since his release, Lisker has been living with a girlfriend in Marina del Rey. He has traveled to Hawaii, Europe and Northern California.

He has enrolled in Santa Monica College but has been unable to find a steady job. He has also sued the LAPD detective who investigated his mother's slaying, claiming that the detective framed him. The case is set to go to trial next year.

-- Matt Lait and Scott Glover

Photo: L.A. Times file

Comments () | Archives (17)

Oh come on JB, this man needs to be set free!

Stop with bureaucratic bull and do the right thing.

Twone questions. Why? Is he too busy campaigning to the job he's being paid for?

Correction... two questions.

Maybe Brown just wants to wait for the upcoming fight to repeal prosecutorial and judicial immunity in cases like this. Then he and the original prosecutor and ALL the investigators involved in this can be indicted and sent to prison instead of an innocent person. Its time we repeal prosecutorial and judicial immunity.

This is absolutely cruel and sick.

Jerry Brown just lost my vote.

This is plain wrong, Jerry Brown! You just lost my vote. Where is your common sense and decency? Shame on you Jerry Brown.

So, innocent men get punished as molesters and murderers for PAPERWORK? If that's true the system has gone disgustingly awry.

Trying to reinstate a conviction on a wrongly convicted and now freed man.
The 9th Circuit's decision was a travesty of justice, and Brown's attempt to continue the unjust persecution of Bruce Lisker is horrendous.

I have great dislike for Meg Whitman, but this is certainly not going to make it easy for me to support Brown in this election.

LOL!!! This is sooo funny! Jerry Brown says "let's wait until after the election to do something stupid".

Leave Lisker alone & free; he clearly is not guilty.

Although I will not be voting for Meg Whitman, after following this story Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown can forget my vote!

How in any civilized judical system can "actual innocence" not be enough to overturn a conviction? Do we WANT to imprison innocent people? Do we not want to get the correct person? This is flat wrong. Even if he did do it, there is no proof of premeditation and serving 25 years in prison is a normal sentence for 2nd degree murder or below. He's got a home, in school, and doing what he should - let him remain free.

Enough! Leave this poor man alone already!

JB never had my vote, but I agree with him...

This is crazy, this judge just can't find him innocent...If these discrepancies are true, the State of California should retry him...and he should remain in prison throughout his new trial...

The big money in Vegas says he did it...

First and foremost Jerry Brown is a politician. He, like all others of his ilk, only superficially and hypocritically support the Cosntitution and Bill of Rights. Power is their holy grail ... at all costs.

I don't understand how it benefits the legal system when a person is imprisoned even though they are INNOCENT!!!

F.Y.I. to reporters Laitt and Glover.

The L.A. Times search tool used with the term "lisker" will not bring up your September 2, 2010 report that was in placed in the L.A. NOW category.

It does return another version of the same report with comments.

But the L.A. NOW version with 75 comments seems to not be linked to the search function.


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