“The Whole Truth” about Bruce Lisker

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Last night I attended a screening of the 48 Hours Mystery episode “The Whole Truth” about Bruce Lisker, with Bruce and Kara and most of the principals in the show—the LA Times reporters Matt Lait and Scott Glover, and the larger-than-life private investigator, Paul Ingels.  The screening was hosted by 48 Hours correspondent Erin Moriarty who’d flown out from New York for the occasion.

During the show Bruce was often in tears. Afterward, he was visibly moved. We were all moved by his incredible story now more than a quarter century in the making. I hope the millions of TV viewers were outraged by this miscarriage of justice and moved by the righting of this terrible wrong.

The post-show discussion centered on the heroes without whom Bruce would still be languishing in prison—the dogged LA Times journalists, the passionate PI. But since they were all present, the conversation turned to the Internal Affairs detective, Jim Gavin, who risked his career to be a whistle blower within the tightly-knit fraternity of the LAPD.  The consensus was that he was the hero among heroes, since he’d paid the biggest price for doing what was right.

As martinis were re-filled and toasts were made, I couldn’t help but think of my late wife, Joy, and how much this moment would have meant to her. In early 2007 after being informed by her oncologist that her breast cancer was “terminal,” she told me that, though she’d lived a full life and wasn’t afraid to die—after all, she talked to Bruce’s father from the Afterlife and wrote a book about it—she desperately wanted to see her stepson free. A renowned astrologer and psychic, she knew that it was only a matter of time before he was released—time she no longer had.  She “graduated” (her phrase) seven weeks later, at noon on Good Friday, 2007.

Since she had communicated with me from the Afterlife—like Bob Lisker had to her—I was very aware of her presence last night in that suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. I’m sure Bruce’s father, Bob, was there in spirit, too. I didn’t share any of these other-worldly impressions with anyone at the screening. These heroes whom I was toasting had performed miracles of their own…right here in this life. The Afterlife could take care of itself.

Bruce Lisker & Jerry Weinstock

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Update on the Bruce Lisker 48 Hours episode: “The Whole Truth”

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Just received an email from CBS News about the upcoming 48 Hours episode this Saturday night.  With their permission I’m reprinting it here.

October 14, 2010

A TEENAGER CONVICTED OF MURDERING HIS MOTHER FIGHTS TO PROVE HIS INNOCENCE TAKING ON THE LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT TO EXPOSE THE LIES AND COVER-UPS THAT KEPT HIM IN PRISON FOR 26 YEARS

NOW, AFTER A YEAR OF FREEDOM HE STILL COULD SUFFER ANOTHER GRAVE INJUSTICE…THEY WANT TO PUT HIM BACK IN PRISON

Caption (l-r): Bruce Lisker; Bruce’s mother, Dorka Lisker

In prison since the age of 17 for his mother’s murder, Bruce Lisker was freed last year after 26 years. His conviction was overturned based on the finding that most of the evidence used to implicate him in the crime had been seriously undermined or proved false. But Lisker’s freedom is at stake again, as prosecutors seek to reopen the case and have him returned to prison. Now, as he prepares to head back to court, correspondent Erin Moriarty reports on the botched murder investigation, lies, cover-ups and the grave injustice that have brought the Los Angeles Police Department under fire and ruined lives and careers. In a network television exclusive, Bruce Lisker, the original prosecutor on the case and the former LAPD internal affairs investigator speak candidly about the case that many believe put an innocent man in prison, on 48 HOURS MYSTERY, “The Whole Truth,” Saturday, Oct. 16 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Bruce Lisker’s legal saga began on March 10, 1983, when he found his mother, Dorka Lisker, beaten severely and stabbed in their Sherman Oaks, Calif., home. Bruce, who began abusing drugs at age 11, says he began that day in typical fashion by getting high. When he arrived at his parents’ house, he says he knocked on the door. When he got no answer, he peered into the house through the window and saw what he believed was his mother sprawled on the floor. He then entered the house through the window and found her. Police arrived to find Bruce hysterical and high. Suspecting that he was not just a distraught son, but in fact his own mother’s attacker, authorities arrested him.

Bruce’s father believed his son’s protestations that he was innocent and urged police to investigate Bruce’s friend Mike Ryan, a 15-year-old with a criminal record, who had gone to the house to see Bruce’s mother the day before. Convinced that Bruce was the killer, a young detective, Andrew Monsue, quickly dismissed Ryan as a suspect and doggedly pursued building an airtight case against Bruce – based on what appeared to be blood spatter from Bruce’s T-shirt and a confession from a prison inmate who claimed Bruce told him about the murder. With the overwhelming evidence, Bruce was facing first-degree murder, which carried a sentence of 25 years to life. Always at his son’s side, Bruce’s father urged him to plead guilty in exchange for a five-and-a-half year sentence in a juvenile facility. But they were dealt a shocking blow when a team of psychologists found Bruce violent and lacking in remorse and advised against him going to a juvenile facility. The plea deal was off. The teenager would be tried as an adult. After a three-week trial, Bruce’s fate was in the hands of the jury. After a three-day deliberation, they delivered a guilty verdict and Bruce was sentenced to 16 years to life.

Bruce dedicated the passing years in prison to proving his innocence. Through it all, his father’s unwavering belief in his son’s innocence remained constant until his death. And in 1999, 16 years after his mother’s murder, Bruce took a leap of faith that would change his life. He hired ex-cop-turned-private-investigator Paul Ingels, a move that would set in motion a 10-year investigation. Together they would find an unexpected ally in then-Sgt. Jim Gavin, an internal affairs investigator, and expose a cover-up by one of the most powerful police forces in the country – the LAPD.

“I think Bruce Lisker was framed. I think the lead detective had fabricated evidence,” Sgt. Gavin tells Moriarty in an exclusive interview.

Even Phillip Rabichow, the original prosecutor on the case talking for the first time on television admits that, “I wouldn’t have prosecuted him if I knew then everything I know now.”

While Ingel’s and Gavin’s findings would eventually set Bruce free, their efforts were not without consequences. Gavin, now a lieutenant, recounts a conversation with one of his superiors at the LAPD who urged him to shut the investigation down.

“He goes, ‘You’re done. This motherf***** is gonna stay in prison’…People up the chain of command decided that they were gonna decide the fate of Bruce Lisker. They decided he was guilty.”

Gavin didn’t relent and the case that he says cost him his career is far from over. Bruce Lisker is still battling for his freedom. In September, the state asked the court to send him back to prison because he had missed a procedural deadline. Just last week, a judge rejected the state’s motion. Bruce Lisker remains free…for now.

Click here for a sneak peek at 48 HOURS MYSTERY, “The Whole Truth.”

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