No Plans for Women on Death Row Raised in Boswell Murder Hearing

July 1, 2021, 10:28 p.m. ·

Bailey Boswell in Court
Bailey Boswell listens to testimony at her sentencing hearing in June. (Photo: Lincoln Journal Star)

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As attorneys argue whether Bailey Boswell deserves the death penalty for the murder she committed in 2019, there are questions about how Nebraska would deal with a female awaiting execution.

In testimony at Boswell’s sentencing hearing, the head of the state’s prison system conceded there currently is no plan in place to accommodate a case of this sort.

“If a female were to receive such a sentence, we would ultimately draft policy language specific to whatever those needs were,” Director of Correctional Services Scott Frakes told judges in Saline County District Court on Thursday morning.

Corrections Director Frakes Testfies in Court
Corrections Director Scott Frakes testifies. (Photo: Lincoln Journal Star)

The testimony came during the second phase of a hearing before a three-judge panel convened to determine if Boswell’s crime met the criteria for capital punishment.

In October 2020, the 27-year-old woman was found guilty of taking part in the murder and dismemberment of Lincoln resident Sydney Loofe. Boswell and her boyfriend Aubrey Trail used a dating app to lure the woman to an apartment in Wilber, Nebraska where they carried out a plan to kill her.

If the judges sentence Boswell to death, she would be the first woman so punished in the state’s history while joining a list of 12 men currently awaiting execution. The state’s prison system would house her at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York.

Her defense attorney, Todd Lancaster, argued keeping Boswell isolated and alone “would create a situation in which she would be housed for decades in restrictive housing” with little human contact.

At the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution where the men are held in a special death sentence unit, the prisoners are kept away from the rest of the prison population. Even in their own cell block only six of the inmates are allowed out of their single bed cells for about six hours a day.

There are some small freedoms, according to Frakes. “They don’t come out in restraints. They don’t come out under escort,” he told the court. “It’s just a very small community that lives together.”

The divided groups share meals and play games in the constantly monitored commons area.

Lancaster told the court since the Department of Corrections intends to treat a woman the same as the men, that could result in Boswell’s near total isolation from the rest of the prison population in York.

“That would limit her social contact with any other people,” he said, resulting in a what he argues could be a violation of her Constitutional protection against a cruel and unusual punishment.

That type of separation is considered by some prison experts to be detrimental to a person’s mental health.

Lancaster argued the state prison system’s current lack of a plan to house women sentenced to death would be one of several valid reasons Boswell should be spared from a death sentence.

Later in the day, witnesses spoke of the convicted woman’s difficult and compliant relationships with men to whom she relinquished control, including Aubrey Trail.

Frakes went on to testify the York prison is transitioning away from using the sort of restrictive housing system considered necessary to isolate more volatile male inmates. His comment could hint conditions for Boswell at the women’s prison might be less restrictive than for the men on death row.

How prisoners are housed has never been an issue when weighing a death sentence versus life in prison. That will be a matter for the three-judge panel to consider. A decision will likely be several months away.