John Lotter

* John L. Lotter, Feb. 21, 1996, Richardson County. Lotter and Marvin Nissen were convicted of killing Teena Brandon, 21, of Lincoln, a transgender male. They killed Brandon in 1993 to silence him after he told police they had raped him. They also killed Lisa Lambert, 24, and Phillip DeVine, 22, who lived in the same house as Brandon and witnessed the killing. Lotter has maintained his innocence.

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t take up a Nebraska death row inmate’s latest challenge to his sentence. 

John Lotter, who was convicted in the killing that inspired the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry," was seeking review of an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals order July 31 denying him permission to go forward with an appeal in U.S. District Court in Nebraska.

The court denied his petition Monday without comment or explanation, saying simply: “Petition DENIED.”

The request was a long shot considering the country’s highest court gets 7,000 to 8,000 requests to hear cases each term and grants and hears oral arguments in about 80, according to the Supreme Court’s website. To be approved, four of the nine justices must agree to hear it. 

Rebecca Woodman and Jessica Sutton, of the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic in Kansas City, Missouri, had sought to challenge Nebraska's sentencing method, which includes phases that rely on judges and not juries to determine if someone gets the ultimate punishment.

They started the challenge in U.S. District Court in Lincoln.

But in February, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf refused and denied Lotter's habeas corpus petition, in part because the attorneys hadn't gotten permission from the 8th Circuit Court to file it.

He likened the filing to a Hail Mary pass.

Lotter is raising the same challenge in state court based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Florida case in 2016. He also is appealing a Richardson County District judge's decision to deny him an evidentiary hearing.

Lotter was sentenced to death for his role in the 1993 killings of Brandon Teena and two witnesses, Lisa Lambert and Philip DeVine, at a rural Humboldt farmhouse.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.



Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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