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Brandon Teena Murder Trial: 1995

The Trials

Marvin Thomas Nissen incriminated Lotter, claiming that he had fired all the shots. He later admitted that he had stabbed Brandon to make sure he was dead. At Nissen's trial, Assistant Attorney General James Elworth, serving as special prosecutor in the case, pointed to evidence of premeditation. Nissen told his wife on December 30, 1993, that he was going to get a power of attorney over his children for his mother. Elworth claimed Nissen had done so because he knew he would be in jail and that he would not be able to take care of his children. Elworth showed through testimony that Lotter and Nissen had gone to the Falls City home of Lana Tisdale, and then drove by the home of a local deputy sheriff to make sure he was home and would not disturb them. Wearing gloves, they then drove to the Humboldt farmhouse where Brandon was staying. Had they intended only to frighten or intimidate Brandon, they would not have been wearing gloves, Elworth claimed.

The shootings were conducted in execution style, leaving powder burns on the bodies. Although Nissen said that Lotter did all the shooting, he was also legally responsible. Elworth explained to the jury that they could find Nissen guilty of first-degree murder by several lines of logic. Even if he had not premeditated the crime, committing a murder during the course of a burglary, under Nebraska law, was also first-degree murder.

Lotter's attorney, Mike Fabian, tried to pin Nissen down to admitting that he hated Brandon, and that the rape was inspired by hate. But both Nissen and Lotter denied that they hated Brandon.

Peter Blakeslee, Nissen's attorney, argued that Nissen was less involved in the murders than Lotter, and asked the jurors to consider charges less serious than first-degree murder. He claimed the plan was Lotter's and that Nissen was not sure what they were going to do on the night of the murder.

At Lotter's trial, Nissen testified against Lotter, claiming that Lotter had killed all three of the victims, and told police they had thrown the murder weapons in a nearby river. Lotter never confessed, and he denied any part in the murders, claiming he was asleep in the car while Nissen committed the murders. Lotter's attorney claimed that all the evidence against Lotter was circumstantial and unsuccessfully sought to bar Nissen's testimony.

In February 1996, Lotter was sentenced to death. In May of 1997, Nissen's appeals were turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentBrandon Teena Murder Trial: 1995 - The Rape And Murder, The Trials, Gender Issues