Court decides Brandon Teena's life worth only $17,360, possibly $98,223
If you've seen Boys Don't Cry, you know the basic story. In 1993 John Lotter and Marvin Nissen brutally raped 21-yr-old Nebraska man Brandon Teena after discovering he was biologically female (sound familiar?). Following the rape Brandon escaped and took his story to the sheriff, only to be met with indifference and outright abuse. A week later, Lotter and Nissen brutally murdered Brandon, Lisa Lambert, and Philip DeVine. Nissen is currently serving a life sentence; Lotter is on death row.
Anyway, a helpful Nebraska reader brought my attention to two new twists in the case. First, the Nebraska Supreme Court has decided not to award the $350,000 in damages requested by Brandon's mother. From the Associated Press (aka the Land of Disrespectful Pronouns):
JoAnn Brandon initially asked for $350,000 in damages, claiming Richardson County Sheriff Charles Laux's indifference led to her daughter's murder. District Judge Orville Coady awarded JoAnn Brandon $17,360 in damages, ruling that Teena Brandon was partly responsible for her own death because of her lifestyle.
In an opinion issued last year, the Nebraska Supreme Court said Laux was more concerned with Teena Brandon's sexuality than with keeping her safe after she reported being raped. According to last year's ruling, Laux showed indifference by referring to Teena Brandon as "it" and not immediately arresting the two suspects, who had threatened to kill her if she reported the rape.
JoAnn Brandon was then awarded $98,223.
That may sound like a lot, but when we think about the $17,360 the judge originally wanted to award and compare it to...
$10 Million for Fatal Delay in Diagnosis. After only 30 minutes of deliberation, a Baltimore Circuit Court jury awarded $10 million to the family of a teenager who died after a hospital took four days to diagnose and begin treating his blood disorder. The jury awarded $4 million to his parents and $6 million to the boy’s estate. Maryland law limits the amount of damages a family can collect, in this case $840,000 for the parents and $560,000 for the teen. (ATLA L@w News Digest – November 7, 2002)
... we can only conclude that Nebraska courts doesn't seem to think transgender lives are worth much. Worse, that first judge awarded a low figure because he declared that because he was trans (that's presumably what is meant by "lifestyle"), Brandon was responsible for his own death. If a sheriff ignoring a rape victim's testimony doesn't go beyond negligence into malignance, I don't know the meaning of the word...
Anyway, the second item: John Lotter is asking for his death sentence to be commuted to life in prison. All I can say about this is: I'm completely and totally against the death penalty, and I think all death sentences should be commuted. But I'm not about to lose sleep over this particular murderous transphobic fiend.