A man convicted of killing 4 people in Omaha in 2013 was sentenced to death Tuesday by a 3-judge panel - Nebraska's 1st death penalty sentence handed down since the punishment was reinstated by voters in November.
The panel issued its ruling in the case of Nikko Jenkins, who was convicted of 4 counts of 1st-degree murder for the August 2013 shooting deaths.
The judicial panel had the option of sentencing Jenkins to death or life in prison. The judges cited the heinous nature of the killings in their decision and said they believed state psychiatrists who testified that while Jenkins does have narcissistic and anti-social personality disorders, he knew right from wrong when he committed the crimes.
"Each one of these murders was a planned and deliberate act," Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon said Tuesday during the hearing.
Jenkins, who was visibly thinner than when he was first arrested, showed no emotion as he was sentenced. The only words he said loud enough to be heard from the gallery were directed at his public defender, when he refused to sign paperwork to file an appeal.
"You're not doing my appeal," Jenkins said to Douglas County Public Defender Thomas Riley.
Appeals are automatically filed in death penalty cases in Nebraska. The judicial panel ordered Riley to handle the appeal, despite Jenkins' objection.
In addition to death for each of the 4 counts of murder, Jenkins also was sentenced to at least 450 years for a dozen weapons counts in the case.
Jenkins pleaded no contest in 2014, but his sentencing has been delayed for years because of concerns about his mental competency. His defense psychiatrist said Jenkins suffers from schizophrenia and perhaps a bipolar disorder. Defense lawyers have noted Jenkins' habit of tattooing his face and self-mutilation while in prison, as well as his ramblings in court, as proof of a deteriorating mental state.
State psychiatrists, however, have repeatedly declared that Jenkins is sane and testified during the case that he is faking psychosis.
Just 11 days after his release from prison, where he had been for 10 years for 2 carjackings, Jenkins shot and killed Juan Uribe-Pena and Jorge Cajiga-Ruizon on Aug. 11, 2013.
Prosecutors say 8 days later, Jenkins and his sister killed Curtis Bradford, a 1-time prison acquaintance. Then, on Aug. 21, police say, Jenkins pulled Andrea Kruger from her SUV as she drove home from work and shot her 4 times before speeding off in her vehicle.
Prosecutors argued that Jenkins planned the killings to cover up robberies of the victims or to keep them from identifying him, but Jenkins insisted an Egyptian god ordered him in a foreign language to kill the 4 as human sacrifices.
Jenkins was ultimately found competent to stand trial and allowed to represent himself for much of it. He was then allowed in 2014 to plead no contest to the murder charges. A no-contest plea acknowledges there is sufficient evidence to convict, but is not an admittance of guilt.
Nebraska lawmakers abolished capital punishment in 2015, but death penalty supporters responded with a statewide ballot campaign that prevented the law from going into effect until voters decided whether to overturn the Legislature's decision. Nearly 61 % of voters last November opted to reinstate the penalty.
The mother of 1 of Jenkins' victims cried quietly as she left the courtroom.
Velita Glasgow, the mother of Curtis Bradford, said Tuesday's sentence brought much-needed closure for her.
"It's time for me to heal," she said. "I'm ready to put this behind me."
Source: Associated Press, May 30, 2017
Chambers predicts Jenkins' death sentence won't be carried out
|Senator Ernie Chambers|
Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said he doesn't think Nikko Jenkins' death sentence will ever be carried out, and may even be overturned at the Nebraska Supreme Court level.
If not on the state level, it will probably be overturned by a federal appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court, he said.
"I do believe that Nikko Jenkins is mentally deranged. I think the evidence will show that, and under the circumstances, I don't think the death penalty can be carried out," Chambers said.
There will be so many moving parts in the way the case was handled, that the number of appeals themselves will be virtually infinite, he said.
Jenkins' victims were 2 Latino men, a black man and white woman, and there was a noticeable change in the reporting of the murders when Andrea Kruger, a white woman, was killed, he said. Had she not been a victim, Chambers said, the case would have most likely been handled as a plea bargain and the death penalty would not have been on the table.
"I think it was a cruel hoax played on the families and the friends of the victims to hand out all those additional sentences in terms of years," he said. "It shows the political nature of what these judges did."
In addition to death for each of the four counts of murder, Jenkins also was sentenced to at least 450 years for a dozen weapons counts in the case.
Jenkins' mental state and the conditions in which he was held in prison will have a bearing on how the matter turns out, Chambers said. And it especially will have an impact that Judge Peter Bataillon allowed Jenkins to represent himself during his initial trial phase.
"I think that was a fatal flaw in the proceedings," Chambers said.
Jenkins has said getting the death penalty would allow him to get out of the solitary circumstance he's been in all these years and be around other men on death row, which is a type of segregation but allows contact with other humans, Chambers said.
Source: Lincoln Journal Star, May 30, 2017
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