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Judge recuses herself from death penalty panel in Trail case

Posted at 4:23 PM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 17:23:29-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A district judge who helped draft Nebraska’s controversial lethal injection protocol when she worked as a prison system lawyer has agreed to recuse herself from the state’s most recent death penalty case.

Johnson County District Judge Julie Smith was one of three judges appointed to serve on a panel that will decide in June whether Aubrey Trail should be put to death by lethal injection or sentenced to life in prison. She announced her decision to remove herself from the panel in a six-page order filed last week, citing a possible “appearance of impropriety.”

Trail was convicted last year of first-degree murder and other counts for the death and dismemberment of Lincoln store clerk Sydney Loofe. Trail’s girlfriend, Bailey Boswell, is also charged in the slaying and faces her own death penalty trial in March. Loofe’s body parts were found in 14 pieces in ditches along a state highway weeks after her disappearance in November 2017.

Trail’s attorney had filed a motion to remove Smith from the panel, citing her work on the death penalty protocol for the Nebraska Correctional Services Department before she became a judge.

Lancaster County District Judge Susan Strong has been appointed to replace Smith on the panel, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.