Two Men Wrongfully Convicted Of Murder To Receive $24 Million From L.A.
Los Angeles is going to shell out over $24 million to two men who both spent years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
The two men were not convicted of the same crime, but the decision to issue payments to both men was made today. The L.A. City Council has agreed that Kash Register will receive $16.7 million, while Bruce Lisker will receive $7.6 million, the L.A. Times reports.
According to a detailed account from lawyer Lara Bezelon in Slate, Register was convicted of shooting and killing 78-year-old Jack Sasson in Sasson's West L.A. carport in 1979. Sasson was shot five times and died three weeks after the shooting.
The evidence against him came from a 19-year-old woman named Brenda Anderson who told investigators that she heard a gunshot, then saw a black man running away. She later chose Register's photo when police showed her photos of six different black men. She and Register had gone to the same high school.
Another man, Elliott Singleton, said that he, too, had witnessed the crime and chased after the shooter. He also pointed to Register when shown the same photos. His story didn't make a lot of sense, however. There wasn't any real DNA evidence tying Register to the scene. The fingerprints found on Sasson's car didn't match, and a bloodstain found on a pair of Register's pants was simply found to be Type O. Sure, that matched Sasson's blood, but also millions of others. This was 1979, and the testing wasn't so advanced as to narrow it down yet.
Register had an alibi in both the unemployment office, where he went job hunting that day, and in his pregnant girlfriend, Cheryl Perry. Perry said he'd gone to her place after he left the unemployment office.
Two of Brenda Anderson's sisters—Sheila Vanderkam and Sharon Anderson—both told police that she was lying. Sharon Anderson had been with Brenda Anderson at the time of the murder, and Vanderkam was working as a detective's assistant. Vanderkam claims that a detective on the case shushed her when she tried to tell him that Brenda Anderson was an unreliable drug user whom she suspected was lying. Meanwhile, Register maintained his innocence, but was still convicted and sent to prison, where he remained for 34 years.
His freedom came when Vanderkam looked him up in 2011 and found that he was still incarcerated. She got in touch with a lawyer who had represented Register at an appeal, and asked that the case be looked at again. Vanderkam also talked to Sharon Anderson again, who said she'd seen the shooter, knew it wasn't Register, but never said anything because the detectives that interviewed her threatened her with time in juvenile hall over an unrelated theft she and Brenda Anderson had allegedly committed. And Singleton's wife said that Singleton couldn't have seen and chased after the shooter as he so claimed at the time. Singleton claimed he could no longer remember anything about the case.
Ultimately, Register's conviction was vacated in 2013 after a judge determined that Brenda Anderson and Singleton's testimony was not credible. Register was 53 at the time of his release.
As for Bruce Lisker, he will receive $7.6 million. Lisker was accused of fatally beating and stabbing his own mother, 66-year-old Dorka Lisker, in 1983 in her Sherman Oaks home. Lisker was just 17, and he frequently got in arguments with his mother and was known to use drugs.
He testified that he saw his mother lying on the floor inside the home and broke inside to rush to her aid. Detectives thought he was lying, and had in fact killed her himself. The evidence? Detectives claimed that Lisker couldn't possibly have seen his mother from outside the home. They also said they found a bloody footprint matching Lisker's, and blood spatter on his clothes. They also said that Lisker had spoken with someone inside the jail about committing the brutal crime, though it would later be revealed that prosecutors often got inmates to act as informants and claim that other inmates had confessed their crimes to them.
There was another troubled teenager, Mike Ryan, who was a former friend of Lisker's as well as a potential suspect. He had a criminal record from before Dorka Lisker's death, and it continued after Lisker's conviction. However, Ryan was dismissed as a suspect because the detective interviewing him looked up the wrong person and found no criminal record. Ryan took his own life in 1996, but even his own mother told reporters from the Times that she suspected him in Dorka Lisker's death.
Later, experts discovered that the bloody shoe print found in the home did not match Bruce Lisker's shoes. Reporters from the Times also concluded that you could see into the room where Lisker's mother was found via a window, just as Lisker claimed.
Bruce Lisker served 26 years in prison before being freed in 2009, and is now married and living in Woodland Hills.
While Lisker is happy to be free and glad for the money, he said that the money isn't enough. "How can one place a monetary figure on a lifetime of stolen freedom, of crushed aspirations and a shattered reputation, on my mother's tragic murder going unsolved and neglected for 33 years and counting?" he asked.