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Judge rejects bid to put Bruce Lisker back in prison

October 8, 2010 |  7:00 pm

http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2010-09/56206119.jpg

A federal judge has rejected an attempt by state lawyers to send a man whose 1985 murder conviction was overturned last year back to prison on procedural grounds.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips means that Bruce Lisker, who spent 26 years behind bars, remains a free man.

"I’m relieved," said Lisker, who had been accused of killing his 66-year-old mother. "Justice has won for another day."

The state attorney general’s office filed a motion last month seeking to have Lisker sent back to prison on a technicality, citing a U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in another case that said inmates cannot file "untimely" petitions for release even if they can prove they are innocent.

Lisker, now 45, had missed a statutory deadline in which to file his petition but was allowed to pursue his wrongful conviction claims because he met an "actual innocence" exception, Phillips ruled in August 2009. The recent 9th Circuit ruling said there is no such exception.

On Friday, Phillips said in a 15-page decision that because state lawyers failed to appeal her ruling last year when they had an opportunity, they were precluded from trying to reopen the case. She called their motion "fatally flawed" and unsupported by case law.

A spokeswoman for Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said lawyers were evaluating Phillips’ ruling and have made no decision about whether to appeal it. Even from the outset, the attorney general’s commitment to the motion has seemed uncertain.

Hours after The Times reported that the motion had been filed, a high-ranking official in the office said Brown was reconsidering whether to withdraw it. A hearing on the motion was scheduled for later this month, but after reviewing the papers filed from both the state and Lisker’s attorneys, Phillips said there was no need.

-- Matt Lait

Photo: Bruce Lisker is released from prison last year.

Credit: Los Angeles Times

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