The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to pay $16.7 million and $7.6 million to Kash Register and Bruce Lisker, respectively, who were arrested as teens and spent a combined 60 years in jail for murders they did not commit.
While the two cases were independent of one another, they share a common complaint against the Los Angeles Police Department. Detectives concocted evidence against Register and Lisker, each man’s overturned conviction and lawsuit against the city stated.
“I can’t get these 34 years back, but I hope my case can help make things better for others, through improving the way the police get identifications or other reforms,” Register said in a statement released by his attorneys Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Register’s settlement may be the biggest sum of its kind in the history of Los Angeles, his lawyers contend.
Register was released in December 2013, after 34 years in prison for a 1979 murder in West LA. He was 19 years old when wrongfully convicted. While police accepted one neighbor’s claim to have heard gunshots and seen Register fleeing the scene, contradictory evidence was dismissed.
One of the neighbor’s sisters told police that account was a lie, while a second sister told police they had the wrong suspect. The first sister, Sheila Vanderkam, typed Kash Register’s unusual name into a registry search decades later, then upon seeing he was still in jail, contacted Register’s lawyers, leading to a reopening of the case and his clearing.
Lisker won his freedom back in August 2009, after 26 years behind bars for a 1983 murder in Sherman Oaks. At the age of 17, he was wrongfully convicted of murdering his 66-year-old mother, who was stabbed in the back inside her own home. Lisker always claimed he saw her motionless on the floor through a window, then broke in the house to help.
Police pinned the crime on Lisker using faulty evidence, including a prisoner informant’s testimony, but their claims were eventually debunked in court, exonerating Lisker. The LAPD had said it was physically impossible that Lisker’s story of seeing his mother from outside could be true, but Los Angeles Times reporters and experts showed otherwise. Another piece of evidence police claimed conclusively showed Lisker’s guilt was bloody shoe prints in the bathroom, but an LAPD analyst and FBI expert testified against that theory successfully as well.
“It’s a very happy day. It’s a vindication and an acknowledgment by the city of Los Angeles at its highest levels that what I have said all along is true, that I am innocent and at 17 I was framed by the LAPD for the murder of my mother,” Lisker told the Times by phone.
“The toll this ordeal has taken on me and my family is incalculable. The money is nowhere near enough,” Lisker added. “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? There are no words, just as there is no amount that can adequately compensate me for what’s happened.”