warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Lisker Gets Trial Date For Attempt At LAPD Restitution

Kevin Douglas Grant |
March 23, 2010 | 10:07 a.m. PDT

Senior Editor

Lisker as a boy with mother Dorka. (FreeBruce.org)

After stepping into a vacant jury room at the federal courthouse in downtown L.A., Bruce Lisker joked with his attorneys about the things he couldn't have during his 26 years in prison: a wife, a home and children.

The trial date for his civil lawsuit against the LAPD, who allegedly framed him for his mother's murder, had just been set for March 29, 2011.  Lisker, clean shaven from the top of his head to the tip of his chin, engaged in the black humor of a man who is rebuilding his life after a miscarriage of justice.   

When asked if a cash settlement could make him whole again, he smiled and said,  "They don't offer houses."

The suit alleges that during the investigation of his mother's murder, his criminal trials and incarceration, LAPD officers, including lead detective Andrew Monsue, acted in a "willful, wanton, malicious and oppressive" manner "with the intent to deprive Plaintiff of his constitutional rights."

Lisker said that when he arrived at his family's Sherman Oaks home on the morning of March 10, 1983, his mother, Dorka, lay in the entryway barely alive. She had sustained multiple stab wounds to the chest and severe trauma to her head.  Two steak knives were still protruding from her back, which he removed in a panic, Lisker said.

The plaintiff, then 17 years old, was reportedly high on methamphetamine and without a house key. He says he spotted her from the backyard, climbed in the kitchen window and called paramedics.

As emergency workers tended to his mother and the LAPD arrived on the scene, Lisker's agitation and bloody hands apparently alarmed officers and he was placed into the back of a squad car.

Monsue, with the input of his team, determined that Lisker was the likely killer and arrested him.

The true nature of the crime scene has been at issue from the very beginning of the LAPD's investigation. A series of discrepancies lies between what the lead detective reported and what was later demonstrated to be true. For example, Monsue testified at the 1985 trial that the officers arrived to the house on a "very bright sunny day" and that Lisker could not have seen his mother through the window.  

Lisker's suit contends: "March 10 was not a bright, sunny day, nor were the skies clear" and "the view into the house was not blocked by glare from the sun."

Monsue, who was investigated for misconduct by LAPD internal affairs in 2003 and retired as lieutenant in 2005, also testified that bloody footprints found at the scene matched Lisker's shoes.

The suit reads: "[B]lood marked shoe prints in the house...were made by the unidentified intruder and not by Plaintiff."

For Lisker, who bided time behind bars by taking paralegal, computer programming and restaurant management classes, there was a factor that made Monsue's assertions more painful.

He suspected an acquaintance of his, John Michael Ryan, had actually committed the crime.  

"This was somebody that my father and I figured out may have had something to do with [the murder] less than two weeks after my arrest," Lisker said.

The acquaintance committed suicide in 1996.  Lisker said that Ryan's parents have actually come to believe that their son killed Dorka Lisker.

The District Attorney's Office has steadfastly held that Lisker is guilty, but decided last September not to retry him for the murder after a federal judge overturned Lisker's conviction in August.  The judge, Virginia A. Phillips, was persuaded by reports from a U.S. Magistrate that questioned the evidence as Monsue and others had asserted it.

Lisker now lives in Encino, attends Santa Monica College and works as a restorer of archival film prints.
One of his attorneys, Vicki Podberesky, said the City Attorney is taking a very aggressive approach to defending against the lawsuit.

"Mr. [Carmen] Trutanich has made it clear that he'll fight all the way," Podberesky said.

Deputy City Attorney Christian Bojorquez, the lead defense attorney, did not return calls for comment.

The circumstances that led to Lisker's arrest and conviction will be scrutinized during the discovery phase and debated at trial, said Lisker's attorney William Genego.  The potential restitution amount would be determined by a jury, shaped by expert testimony about wages lost by Lisker while incarcerated and "related damage factors."

However, Genego said, in civil cases like this one, both parties tend to use more aggressive tactics because there is "no overriding requirement to seek truth" as in a criminal case.  

For Lisker, there appeared to be no requirement to seek truth in the 1985 trial that led to his conviction.

He expressed excitement about interviewing Monsue during the discovery phase of the case, which his attorneys are legally entitled to do.  Lisker said he hopes Monsue's answers will lend support to the claim that his constitutional rights were violated.

When asked how it feels to have to wait until next March to get the trial underway, Podberesky, who chimed in for her client said, "He's used to waiting."



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.