Judge says man who killed 4 in Omaha is competent for sentencing that could include execution


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OMAHA, Nebraska — A man convicted of killing four people in Omaha just weeks after he left prison is competent to participate in a hearing to determine whether he will face the death penalty, a judge ruled on Monday.

Judge Peter Bataillon denied a motion by Nikko Jenkins, 28, to represent himself, however, according to Jenkins' attorney, Thomas Riley.

Riley declined to say what his next legal step might be. County prosecutors didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press.

The judge set the sentencing date for May 4.

Jenkins was convicted last year after he pleaded no contest to the murder charges, but his sentencing has been on hold because of questions about his mental competency. State doctors have been evaluating Jenkins since last summer.

At a Feb. 16 hearing, Jenkins maintained that he understands the process and pointed to numerous handwritten lawsuits and motions he has filed in the past six months as proof.

Jenkins was allowed to represent himself earlier in the process, but Riley was appointed to represent him for the sentencing phase. A three-judge panel will determine whether Jenkins receives the death penalty.

Nebraska lost its only approved method to carry out executions when its supply of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic required under the department's rules, expired and, so far, has not been replaced.

The last person Nebraska executed was Robert E. Williams, who was electrocuted in 1997.

Jenkins was convicted of first-degree murder for shooting to death Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger in the 10 days after his release from prison in July 2013.

Prosecutors said Jenkins planned the killings to conceal that he had robbed the victims or to keep them from identifying him. Jenkins has insisted he doesn't remember the killings, but said an Egyptian god named Ahpophis ordered him in a foreign language to kill the four as human sacrifices.

A defense psychiatrist has testified at hearings that Jenkins suffers from schizophrenia and perhaps a bipolar disorder. A prosecution psychiatric expert has testified that Jenkins acts out and was lying about his mental state.

After Jenkins was convicted last April, he was later declared incompetent to face the sentencing portion of his case.

The three state experts who examined Jenkins since August devoted much of their report to recounting his troubled history dating back to childhood trauma. Ultimately, they decided Jenkins' symptoms and inconsistent history don't support a major mental illness.

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