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Aubrey Trail's defense attorneys have asked a judge to order attorneys prosecuting him to disclose documents in an effort to see if Gov. Pete Ricketts is behind their decision to seek the death penalty against him.

In a filing Friday afternoon, Ben Murray, one of Trail’s court-appointed attorneys, said he had no other means of obtaining the reasons behind their decision.

"To be clear, this motion does not accuse the government of any wrongdoing," he said. "Instead it seeks information that is necessary to ensure that the decision to seek the death penalty in this case was based on circumstances of the case and not on improper political or personal motive."

Murray's motion pointed out that Ricketts and his family spent a large amount of money on a referendum to reinstate the death penalty after the Legislature voted to abolish it in 2015.

He said the Nebraska Attorney General's office, which took over prosecution from the Saline County Attorney, decided to seek the death penalty.

"Absent a court order compelling the prosecuting attorneys to disclose their reasons, defendant will be unable to investigate and determine whether the state is acting in an unconstitutional and biased manner in seeking his execution, contrary to his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection and his protections against cruel and unusual punishment," Murray wrote.

He is asking Saline County District Judge Vicki Johnson to order counsel to disclose:

* All communications between the prosecuting attorneys, any employee of the Attorney General's office or any agents of the Governor's office regarding seeking the death penalty in criminal cases.

* All communications between them regarding seeking the death penalty against Trail and Bailey Boswell, his co-defendant.

* Any documents or records, including emails, letters and phone messages, between them regarding the decision to seek the death penalty in this case.

Trail is set to go to trial in June on charges of first-degree murder and improper disposal of human remains in the November 2017 slaying of Sydney Loofe.

Last month, prosecutors added a conspiracy charge alleging he conspired with Boswell to solicit young women online, to recruit others to carry out a murder and to select Loofe as their victim.

Loofe, 24, met Boswell on the dating app Tinder and went missing Nov. 16, 2017, after going on a date with Boswell the night before.

Loofe’s remains were found in Clay County on Dec. 4, 2017, and investigators allege Trail strangled her before he and Boswell dismembered and dumped her body and then fled the state, according to court documents.

Trail has told investigators and news reporters that Loofe died at his hands accidentally.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

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