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Judge allows new lawyers for Neb. death row inmate

- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A federal judge has granted a motion by condemned Nebraska inmate John Lotter to have new attorneys appointed to represent him in his efforts to get off death row.

U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf last week granted Lotter's request to appoint Rebecca Woodman and Jessica Sutton - both attorneys with the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic in Kansas City, Mo. - as his lawyers in all clemency and post-conviction proceedings, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (http://bit.ly/1eiP2xj ) Thursday.

The approval came over the objection of the Nebraska Attorney General's office.

Lotter and co-defendant Thomas Nissen were convicted in the 1993 slaying of Teena Brandon, a 21-year-old woman who lived briefly as a man, and two witnesses, Lisa Lambert and Philip DeVine, at a rural Humboldt farmhouse. The crime inspired the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry."

At trial, Nissen testified against Lotter as part of a deal with prosecutors, saying he stabbed Brandon while Lotter fired the shots that killed all three.

Nissen got a life sentence, and in 1996 Lotter was sentenced to death.

Nissen has since changed his story and said he, not Lotter, shot all three. Lotter appealed, but his appeals were rejected by the Nebraska Supreme Court, the U.S. District Court of Nebraska and the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His case has been closed since 2012.

In December, Lotter asked that Woodman and Sutton be appointed to represent him. Within days, Senior Assistant Nebraska Attorney General J. Kirk Brown opposed the motion, saying "nothing is going on" in Lotter's case that would require him to need attorneys.

Brown wrote that the state has not yet sought, and the Nebraska Supreme Court has not yet ordered, enforcement of Lotter's death sentence.

"Lotter is simply sitting," Brown wrote.

Kopf's order granting the appointment of Lotter's new attorneys will terminate automatically in one year unless a judge extends it.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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