Los Angeles will pay more than $24 million to two men who spent decades in prison after they were wrongfully convicted of murder, officials said. Kash Delano Register won his freedom in 2013 after lawyers and students from Loyola Law School doubted a key prosecution witness’s testimony.
He was awarded $16.7 million by the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday. It is the largest settlement in an individual civil rights case in the city’s history, according to reports.
Bruce Lisker, who was released from prison in 2009 after a Los Angeles Times investigation into his conviction, will walk away with $7.6 million.
Though their cases were unrelated, both men maintained that detectives ignored evidence that proved their innocence.
City Councilman Paul Krekorian told reporters on Tuesday the two cases were the “very unfortunate” result of police misconduct in the past, but did not reflect how the department operates today.
“It’s just regrettable that these two individuals spent the better part of their lives in prison as a result of the inadequacy of the investigations that happened back then,” said Krekorian, who heads the budget committee that weighs settlement payments.
Register, now 55, was arrested and charged in the 1979 armed robbery and murder of Jack Sasson, 78, after eyewitness testimony put him at the scene at the time of the shooting, the Times wrote.
Witness Brenda Anderson reportedly told police she heard gunshots and that she saw Register running from the scene.
Anderson picked him out of a photo lineup, officials said, but her sisters told police that her accounts were untrue.
Despite there being no recovered murder weapon, no fingerprints lifted and Register’s girlfriend’s insistence that he was with her at the time of the shooting, he spent 34 years behind bars for the crime.
Anderson’s sister, Sheila Vanderkam, reportedly testified that she tried to tell a detective that her sister had lied about seeing Register, but the investigator put a finger to his lips, meaning she should stay quiet.
Her other sister, Sharon Anderson, said that she, too, was ignored by police.
Register’s attorneys claimed that Anderson picked out Register under the threat of being prosecuted for credit card forgery and a recent theft if she didn’t choose someone.
Register was finally freed after a fresh examination of his case, spurred on after Vanderkam read many years later that he was still imprisoned. He was ultimately freed in 2013.
“After almost 37 years, I am more than ready to try to put this all behind me and move on with my life,” he told reporters.
Lisker, now 50, also said he was ready to move forward after spending 26 years in prison for the murder of his 66-year-old mother, Dorka.
Though happy to be vindicated, he told the Times:
“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…”
At the time of the murder, Lisker, who had a reputation for fighting with his mother and a history of drug abuse, told police he saw her lying in the foyer and broke into the home to help her. They did not believe him.
A Times investigation in 2005 raised questions about the case against Lisker, pointing to details that showed the murder investigation was “sloppy and incomplete.”
During a hearing in federal court challenging Lisker’s conviction, key elements of the prosecution’s case were undermined or disproved, including that a bloody print found in the bathroom was not in fact made by Lisker’s shoes as it was once thought to be.
His attorneys also said that the lead detective ignored evidence that Lisker’s friend may have been a possible suspect.
Since his release, Lisker has married.