WILBER — As one witness left the courtroom and another sat to take the stand, Aubrey Trail interrupted his trial late Monday morning, shouting out, “Bailey is innocent and I curse you all” before slashing at his neck three or four times.
The cuts drew blood, but Saline County Sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom swarmed him quickly — Trail falling to the floor from his wheelchair — as they worked to get the object out of his hands and to cover his wound.
Saline County District Judge Vicky Johnson had the jurors ushered out of the room, then cleared the courtroom of everyone but the attorneys and deputies.
Just a few minutes later, at 11:25 a.m., a stretcher was brought in and sirens could be heard outside the courthouse as a rescue squad arrived.
It's unclear what Trail used to cut himself or how badly he’s injured. But he is believed to have survived the apparent suicide attempt.
By 2:15 p.m., the jury was back in the courtroom. Johnson asked them to disregard Trail's outburst and the fact he was not there. In the future, she said, he will appear in handcuffs "for obvious reasons."
The judge said she and an attorney on either side would talk to jurors privately in her chambers before they were released Monday. No more evidence was to be presented and the jury was ordered to return at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
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A defendant does not have to be present at trial and typically defendants' actions can't cause a mistrial.
But, the fact that they were meeting to speak with jurors individually suggests that it still may be a possibility.
According to federal and state case law, some courtroom situations can be “so beyond the pale, so prejudicial” that a mistrial is necessary.
In a 2009 decision, the Nebraska Supreme Court said a mistrial is appropriate "when an event occurs during the course of a trial which is of such a nature that its damaging effect cannot be removed by proper admonition or instruction to the jury and thus prevents a fair trial.”
Whether that happened here remains to be seen.
Trail’s sudden outburst jarred court-goers and came in the middle of an otherwise quiet day of testimony, which started 40 minutes late due to a juror who was running behind.
Before it happened, an FBI agent, Eli McBride, had testified about searches at the Wilber apartment Trail shared with Bailey Boswell, his co-defendant on murder charges, and Sydney Loofe's apartment in Lincoln.
A Saline County Sheriff's deputy, Richard Zimmerman, had testified about searches conducted in the Wilber area that didn’t lead to Loofe.
The last to testify was Hunter Birdsall, the manager of a Days Inn in Spencer, Iowa, who told the jury she called a tip line after seeing that Trail and Boswell were being sought in connection with Loofe's disappearance following a Tinder date with Boswell.
Birdsall said Trail and Boswell paid cash for their room and ate Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel on Nov. 23, 2017, Trail joking that his "wife" didn’t cook like that.
Loofe was last seen on Nov. 15 of that year, when Boswell picked her up for a date at about 7 p.m. Her cellphone led police to Wilber.