This time things were different. The juror was a witness. The private investigator, now and always best man, had it easy proving his case. And Bruce Lisker happily volunteered for a different kind of life sentence.
This time, instead of a dreary courtroom, they and many others were gathered on a sun-drenched hillside. Joy was in the air as Lisker walked down the aisle and willingly gave up his freedom. It was two years to the day after his murder conviction was overturned and he was released from prison on August 13, 2009 for a crime he did not commit--the murder of his mother, Dorka Lisker.
This time there was not a dry eye in the house. Family, friends and supporters were happy to shed their tears as Bruce Lisker and Kara Noble were married at a secluded mansion in San Diego County.
"You are the woman for whom my years of solitude yearned," Lisker told Noble as he read his vows in a moving, funny and life-affirming ceremony that marked the attainment of another of Lisker's dreams. I recalled a conversation we had the first time we met, in a courthouse in downtown Los Angeles shortly after he walked out of Mule Creek prison, $200 in his pocket and a new life ahead of him. He was anxious for a relationship but concerned that he didn't know the first thing about how to make that happen or what he would do if he did.
Among the many holes in his life, experience with women was a big one. On trial at 17, incarcerated at 18 and finally freed 26 years later at 44, Lisker had missed out on all the innocent mistakes we get to make as we learn how to live our lives.
But shortly after his release he met Noble and the worries disappeared. Suddenly he realized that it was easy to love someone and he knew how to do it after all. Noble had been touched by his story when she read about him in an LA Times article in 2005 and began corresponding with him while he was in prison. Once they met, sparks flew and they soon began a relationship that they both describe as what they had always been searching for.
The wedding ceremony was part of a three-day celebration put together by friends and family from different cities and different eras--childhood friends of Lisker who remember him riding his skateboard up and down the streets of his neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, or who sat in the courtroom as they watched his freedom disappear. Relatives who recounted the days of the trial and subsequent family gatherings especially the funerals of his mother, father and stepmother — he missed while in prison.
All those departed family members were represented at the wedding. A small table next to the bride and groom held photos of Bruce's mom, dad and stepmother, and Kara's mother, father and beloved cat.
Lorraine Maxwell, the juror who was the last holdout for his innocence before she succumbed to the pressure of 11 other jurors and voted to convict Lisker in 1983, was in the crowd. She and Lisker have been getting together since his release. She says the day she heard that Bruce and Kara were engaged was "the happiest day of my life." Now 81, she was hailed by private investigator Paul Ingels as a hero whose subsequent declaration of his innocence helped in his ultimate exoneration.
Maxwell and Lisker share a moment.
There were moving speeches and reminiscences, good wishes and words of wisdom. Many marveled at Lisker's lack of bitterness and anger, his gracious demeanor and his uncanny ability to move on in a positive way . I remember him telling me early on that if he carrried bitterness with him on the outside, he would remain a prisoner forever.
Ingels talked privately about his role in Lisker's journey, spending ten years trying to win his release from prison, most of those years unpaid. "I made a few thousand dollars in the beginning but by the time Bruce's money ran out, I knew he was innocent. I had no choice but to keep going," he said. "I remember the day he got out. That night before I went to bed, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought: 'You did good.' That was my payment."
Now, two years later, Lisker looked into Noble's eyes as she read him her vows. The man who had called a 6x6 foot prison cell his home for 26 years faced a future without limits, with someone at his side. "I am your forever GPS, guiding you home," she said.
After the ceremony, Ingels made an emotional toast and talked about the joy on Lisker's face as he watched his bride walk toward him down the aisle. "I never thought I'd see him happier than the day he walked out of prison," he said.
Fixed: Spelling of Lisker's mother's name. Also, Lisker was married once before.