Boswell claims mass of crime photos led to unfair murder trial

Feb. 1, 2023, 5 p.m. ·

Boswell Supreme Court Appeal
Bailey Boswell, shown during an earlier court hearing, appeals her life sentence for murder.

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During oral arguments heard Wednesday, the Nebraska Supreme Court considered whether showing dozens of gruesome photographs to jurors made it impossible for Bailey Boswell to get a fair trial.

Boswell and her attorneys used the argument in appealing the life sentence she received after a jury found her guilty of conspiring with Aubrey Trial to torture and murder Sydney Loofe of Lincoln in 2017. In a separate trial, a three-judge panel sentenced Trail to death.

Investigators determined Loofe had been lured to an apartment in Wilber, Nebraska by Boswell after meeting on the dating app Tinder. Once inside, Trail had prepared a trap - torturing, killing, and dismembering the woman's body with Boswell's help.

Todd Lancaster gestures during arguements before the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Defense attorney Todd Lancaster makes his case during oral arguments before the Nebraska Supreme Court. (Photo: Nebraska Public Media)

During Boswell's trial in 2020, prosecutors provided the jury with over 50 photos of body parts to convey the horrific nature of the murder of Loofe. Some were taken where the remains were found; others documented the autopsy. The jurors saw ten photos of the victim's severed head.

In her appeal to the Supreme Court, Boswell's attorney, Todd Lancaster, argued sharing so many shocking images as evidence only obscured the facts of the crime.

Pointing out that jurors might only see ten or twelve photos of a crime scene in some murder cases, Lancaster questioned the relevance of providing dozens of gruesome images to a jury "other than to show these pictures to the jury to horrify them and rile up their emotions."

"It's hard for me to see how that is not excessive," he told the justices.

Assistant Attorney General Stacy Foust argues before the Nebraska Supreme Court
Assistant Attorney General Stacy Foust argues before the Nebraska Supreme Court in 2023. (Photo: Nebraska Public Media)

Defending the prosecutors, Assistant Attorney General Stacy Foust said the unusual number of graphic photos became necessary to tell the story of the crime.

"To me, the photographs were essentially crime scene photographs," she explained. "The difference here is, because of Trail and Boswell's actions, there were actually multiple crime scenes with multiple body parts, and the state was entitled to present each to the jury."

Lancaster also questioned whether testimony about witchcraft during the trial unfairly prejudiced the jury.

Foust defended the questioning of three women who claimed to be part of Trail's "coven." She maintains the testimony demonstrated that Boswell played an active role in recruiting a suitable woman to execute for their pleasure.

The justices will review the case and determine if there is sufficient reason to review the sentence or grant Boswell a new trial. Their opinion will be released later this year.

Nebraska Supreme Court in session
Stacy Foust answers questions posed by Nebraska Supreme Court justices in 2023. (Photo: Nebraska Public Media)