A federal judge on Monday refused to reconsider his dismissal of the latest appeal filed by Nebraska death row inmate John Lotter, who was convicted in the triple murder that inspired the 1999 film “Boys Don't Cry.”
U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf issued an order Monday denying Lotter's request to revisit the case. Kopf first dismissed the appeal last month, saying the case had been sufficiently scrutinized by the Nebraska courts and a federal review wasn't warranted.
Lotter was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder in the 1993 slayings of Teena Brandon and two others in a farmhouse near Humboldt.
Brandon, a woman biologically, lived as a man in Richardson County using the names Brandon Teena and Charles Brayman. Mutual friends introduced Brandon to Lotter and Thomas M. Nissen. Both men eventually discovered Brandon was a biological woman. They drove Brandon to a rural area and raped Brandon on Christmas Day 1993.
Nissen eventually testified that he and Lotter decided to kill Brandon after they discovered Brandon had reported the assault to police.
Police questioned Nissen and Lotter about the alleged sexual assault on Dec. 30. Later that day the men went to retrieve two pairs of gloves and weapons before driving to Humboldt to kill Brandon.
Nissen testified that the men shot and stabbed Brandon, shot and killed two other victims, then left to dispose of the evidence.
Lotter has maintained his innocence. He claims that, among other things, the state used a threat of torture to coerce Nissen into lying about the killings.
Prior to Lotter's trial, Nissen was convicted in a separate trial of first-degree murder for Brandon's death and second-degree murder for the other two victims, sparing him the death penalty. Nissen did not testify at his trial but made a last-second deal to testify against Lotter.
Nissen eventually recanted his testimony. The courts have found that sufficient evidence existed to convict Lotter anyway.
In the March dismissal that Lotter eventually appealed, Kopf noted how he and other courts have repeatedly upheld Lotter's conviction.
“The Nebraska courts, and five (or more) zealous defense lawyers, have expended much sweat and treasure insuring that Lotter received a fair trial, a just sentence, a searching appeal and repeated postconviction examinations. A jury of twelve people found beyond a reasonable doubt that Lotter was guilty,” Kopf wrote in his first dismissal.
A three-judge panel upheld Lotter's death sentence, Kopf said. The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence. Trial judges and appellate judges repeatedly denied the subsequent claims Lotter submitted over the ensuing decade. Lotter's latest claims, Kopf said, are moot because the original ruling was correct.
“I find and conclude that Lotter is not entitled to relief,” Kopf wrote. “Legally speaking, if Nebraska carries out the sentence, there need be no ‘second thoughts.' ”
This report includes material from the Associated Press
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