Court: Aubrey Trail death sentence justified, constitutional
By Bill Kelly , Senior Producer/Reporter Nebraska Public Media
Nov. 10, 2022, 3:44 p.m. ·
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The death sentence Audrey Trail received for the torture and murder of Sydney Loofe was justified. That’s the conclusion of the Nebraska Supreme Court in an opinion released Thursday morning.
Justice John R. Freudenberg, writing for the court, called the crime “utterly senseless and cruel” and showed Trail "relished the killing and was bereft of any regard for human life.”
The unanimous opinion reinforces the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty.
Lincoln resident Loofe was 24 years old in 2017 when she was murdered. Testimony revealed she had been lured to Wilber, Nebraska by Trail’s girlfriend, Bailey Boswell, using the dating app Tinder. The couple dismembered the body, disposing of it along rural roads.
During the bizarre District Court trial in 2021, jurors in Saline County heard testimony revealing Trail’s sexual motive with overtones of witchcraft. The jury found Trail guilty of first degree murder.
In a separate trial, Boswell later received a life sentence.
All cases involving capital punishment is automatically appealled to the State Supreme Court.
Trail’s defense attorneys raised several issues, including the constitutionality of the process used in sentencing.
In Nebraska, a jury decides guilt in death penalty cases. A three-judge panel determines if the murder justifies a death sentence. Trail’s defense attorneys argued that the system is unconstitutional. The justices disagreed, noting the process emphasizes the rule of law over the personal opinions of jurors.
At one point during the 2021 court proceedings, Trail stabbed himself in front of the jury. In their appeal, defense attorneys argued that the incident should be grounds enough to warrant a new trial.
In their review of the case, the Supreme Court rejected the claim District Court Judge Vicki Johnson should have declared a mistrial. The court dismissed the claim, writing, “we will not permit Trail to benefit from his own bad behavior.”
The opinion concluded by finding “no merit” in the challenges presented.
“We reaffirm the constitutionality of the Nebraska death penalty statutes and find Trail’s sentence of death was not excessive or disproportionate.”
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