The Lisker Chronicles have followed Bruce Lisker since his release from prison in 2009. Story and photos by Iris Schneider.
As September approached, Bruce Lisker was getting anxious. His civil suit--filed against the LAPD and postponed many times over the three years since he was released from prison and exonerated of the crime of murdering his mother--was set to begin on September 25. Since his release he has tried to create a life that would make up for the 26 years lost to a wrongful prison sentence.
Most people wait to celebrate their 5th, or 10th or 25th anniversary with a big blowout celebration. But Lisker isn't like most people. He doesn't postpone his celebrations. So, on August 18, the first anniversary of his wedding to Kara Noble, he gathered his friends and what he refers to as "chosen family," since his mother and father are gone now, and celebrated his wedding, renewing his wedding vows to his devoted wife Kara. They had invited everyone to return to the rambling rancho in the dusty wine country northeast of San Diego that they had rented for their weekend wedding one year ago. About 30 guests attended, bringing food, drinks, music and chipping in to help pay the rental fee.
The bride wore Hawaiian, a thrift store find at $8.50. There were piles of other Hawaiian thrift store finery for guests to throw on to get in the spirit. The vows were sealed with handmade leis, festooned with plastic trinkets and fake hibiscus flowers. Two other couples joined Bruce and Kara in renewing their vows, since the day was about love and commitment. The party was joyous and fun, something that Kara seems to relish creating.
But there was a palpable sense of foreboding and worry just under the surface. In many ways, Lisker is a lucky man. Exonerated, he's found the love of his life, a partner who's told him "together we can overcome any challenge." He is surrounded by supportive friends and family who say they will stand with him as he faces the LAPD in his upcoming civil trial, seeking justice and compensation for the miscarriage of justice that he maintains changed his life forever.
Several friends talked, however, about how the specter of going back to 1983 must be difficult for Bruce. Indeed, he talks more about his anxiety as the trial nears than he has in the past. He spoke to the crowd after the ceremony, some of whom were waving handmade signs of support, and with tears in his eyes, thanked everyone for being there. Some of the people met him online while he was still in prison, drawn in by his story.
Lisker is well aware of his many blessings and the party weekend was a time to count them. He has said in the past that he will not let anger and bitterness consume him or define his future. His stepmother Joy, who has passed away, taught him how to see the good in life and find his strength. Her many friends remind him of her positive spirit, and are there for him now.
But the next Monday, as Bruce slid into a seat next to his attorneys, forgoing his Hawaiian shirt for a sharp suit and tie, those celebrations seemed very far away. Everything in the Federal courtroom of Judge Howard Matz that morning was about 1983, as his attorneys and those defending the LAPD argued back and forth about what should and could be admitted during the trial. Testimony, court transcripts, depositions from witnesses and jailhouse informants was picked over and debated. Evidence was discussed and dissected. I could not help but wonder what was running through Bruce's mind as he held on for what must feel like a wild roller coaster ride.
After the hearing, Lisker reflected. "It's almost like I feel Monsue's handcuffs on my soul again," he said, referring to the detective who he claims decided he was guilty, blatantly ignoring evidence that would have proven otherwise. "But I believe in the resilience of the human spirit. I know what's right. I know the truth. I never harmed my mother and that carries the day. Wherever my mom and dad are, they know."
Lisker went to court on August 20 and before the hearing adjourned, received a September 4 date for one more preliminary hearing. Then, on September 25, Lisker would get to sit at the plaintiff's table. The LAPD would be the defendants. And the jury would once again decide his future. It's the day he's been waiting for since he was 17. A few days later, Judge Howard Matz alerted Lisker's attorneys that he was vacating, without explanation, the trial date of September 25. "We just wait to hear from him," said attorney Bill Genego. "The date will be set sometime in the future."
Reached at home this week, Lisker was philosophical: "This is something that the judge did, not asked for by either side. It's really quite disheartening. The case probably won't be heard now until next year. But it is what it is. I've had a lot of disappointments over the years, and I know how to deal with them. I'm unfortunately used to it by now."