- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - State psychiatric hospital officials must appear in court to explain why the Lincoln hospital can’t house and treat an Omaha man found too mentally unfit to undergo sentencing for killing four people, a judge ordered Thursday.

Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon gave the mandate during a hearing that came more than two weeks after he ordered Nikko Jenkins to the Lincoln Regional Center for treatment. The Lincoln Regional Center said in a letter sent to the judge last week that it doesn’t have adequate security or a bed for Jenkins.

Jenkins, 27, was allowed to represent himself and found competent to stand trial on four counts of first-degree murder for the August 2013 shooting deaths of four people in three separate attacks. He pleaded guilty and was convicted in April, but was later declared incompetent to face the sentencing portion of his case.

Bataillon had scheduled Thursday’s hearing to find a psychiatric facility that will treat Jenkins, but grew frustrated when Nebraska Assistant Attorney General James Smith appeared on behalf of Lincoln Regional Center officials and presented prosecutors, Jenkins’ public defender and the judge with affidavits from hospital executives minutes before the hearing began.

The documents, signed by Chief Executive Officer Bill Gibson and Chief Medical Director Roger Donovick, restated that the hospital did not have the security to house Jenkins and suggested he instead be moved to a Lincoln state prison, where the hospital’s doctors would visit and attempt to restore Jenkins to mental competency so that he may be sentenced.

Jenkins’ public defender, Tom Riley, objected to the affidavits, saying he should have a chance to question the hospital officials. When asked by the judge if he wanted to question Smith, Riley said he didn’t think the attorney was qualified to answer medical questions about Jenkins’ proposed treatment.

“This is a singular effort to discriminate against (Jenkins),” Riley said. “To me, if we’re going to be treating someone for mental illness, we should be treating them in a hospital, not in a prison.”

Bataillon said he, too, wanted to question the psychiatric hospital officials who defied his order to accept Jenkins.

“I just need to have answers here … and these two affidavits don’t help me any,” Bataillon told Smith. “I need to know why the Lincoln Regional Center is not secure.

“If I put (Jenkins) in the most secure place, and it’s not equipped to treat his mental incompetency, then that’s not an appropriate place for him to be,” Bataillon said.

Bataillon set a new hearing for Tuesday and requested that Gibson and Donovick be present so they may be questioned.

Smith declined to answer questions.

A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that neither Gibson nor Donovick would comment on their decision not to house Jenkins or the judge’s order that they appear in court. She referred a question about whether the men intended to appear in Bataillon’s courtroom next week to the Nebraska Attorney General’s office.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office did not immediately return a message.

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