The Lisker Chronicles have followed Bruce Lisker since his release from prison in 2009. Story and photos by Iris Schneider.
On February 28, the date that Bruce Lisker's civil trial was set to start, he was not in the federal courtroom. Instead, it was just a regular day of work at Eque Archival Film Restoration in Larchmont, running to Kodak's Hollywood lab and Universal Studios delivering and picking up films. For the second or third time his trial date has been continued from its October 2011 start date — to February 2012, April 2012 and now possibly September 2012. "At this point," says his attorney Bill Genego, "we have not yet come to an agreement on a new date."
Bruce was extremely disappointed with the latest postponement.
"I'm going on with my life," he says. "They can delay justice, but justice delayed is justice denied. I'm confident that a jury will see it for what it is, but there are no guarantees."
However, he still maintains a positive outlook, a frame of mind that is sometimes hard to fathom. Given the ups and downs of most people's lives — small frustrations or setbacks like being stuck in traffic, bouncing a check, even getting fired from a job — Bruce seems to have justification to complain, having lost his freedom for decades of his life.
In prison for 26 years for the murder of his mother, he maintained his innocence and fought for his release until finally, in 2009, it happened. His conviction was overturned in August by a Federal judge who agreed that he had been prosecuted with false evidence. He is hoping to see justice served when his civil case comes to trial and he can take the authorities to task for what he maintains was a conviction based on untruths and a poor defense, and finally be compensated for the losses he suffered while in prison from the age of 18 to 44. "It actually proves what a great nation this is when you can seek redress for having been wronged," he says. "Somebody will have to answer."
He and his new wife Kara are coming up on their first anniversary and have decided to invite everyone back — to the house they rented for the ceremony last year — for a celebration. He's back working at Eque, Inc., the archival lab owned by Paul Rutan Jr., the son of his godparents, after being laid off for a while, and he's enjoying his responsibilities. He says he's created a digital database for the company and helped organize their inventory. He gets to drive around the city, delivering and picking up films for restoration, and while he does, he can reminisce about his Hollywood roots.
On a recent run, he pointed out a red building where his dad had his first law office, near Cahuenga and Hollywood. "I remember going there with him when I was a kid. The Fire Station was next door, and he took me there to see the fire engines. We got all these pamphlets on fire prevention and talked to the firefighters. I must have been about 7." His Dad had a booth at Musso and Frank's and Bruce sometimes heads there for lunch or a cocktail. Bruce's dad passed away while he was in prison. He was denied a pass to attend the funeral, but memories of his dad come up often in conversation.
I asked him how he manages to stay so positive. "Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% what you do about it," he said. "It's all about how we're programmed to deal with things that determines whether we can be at peace. Even some people who've had terrible things happen to them have been able to stay positive. For me, I had my dad standing by me. That did a lot for resurrecting my confidence. He had faith in me and he never stopped believing in me. Also, my chosen family, my tribe of supporters who kept my spirits up. They didn't stop believing in me. It gives you the spirit to go on. Music helped me a lot in prison. And I have an amazing wife. She is absolutely incredible. She understands me and I understand her, and we support each other. Together, nothing's going to conquer us."
Someday, Bruce wants to speak out about staying positive and his life experiences, to try to help others. He keeps in touch with some of the friends he made in prison. But for now, he's taking it day by day. A recent email ended with a few sentences that said it all:
"We are doing wonderfully. Just loving life, and all it has to offer. Beautiful, this life thing!"
You can't help but think about how much we take for granted every day while living "this life thing."