- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A judge said Wednesday he will determine at a later date whether a man charged in four fatal shootings in Omaha last summer is competent to stand trial.

Three psychiatrists evaluated Nikko Jenkins and gave testimony at the hearing Wednesday. One labeled Jenkins “one of the most dangerous people I have ever evaluated.” Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon will weigh their testimony.

Jenkins, 27, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Juan Uribe-Pena, Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger. Prosecutors say the four were killed in three separate ambushes over a 10-day period in August. Jenkins was released from prison on July 30.

Jenkins has pleaded not guilty. In November, he declared he wanted to plead guilty to the charges, but by late January had changed his mind saying he is mentally ill and that he should be released from jail.

He appeared thinner and agitated in court Wednesday, insisting several times - despite his lawyers’ attempts to quiet him - that the judge hear his complaints that his constitutional rights had been violated by prosecutors. Bataillon explained each time that he could not consider those complaints until he determined whether Jenkins is competent to face the charges against him.

The competency hearing did not address whether Jenkins was sane at the time of the killings.

Dr. Scott Moore, a psychiatrist for the prosecution, testified that Jenkins is competent to stand trial, meaning he understands the charges against him and the court process, and can assist in his own defense. A defense psychiatrist, Bruce Gutnik, countered that Jenkins has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses since the age of 8, and that he was currently paranoid and delusional and could not aid in his own defense.

But it was the testimony of a third psychiatrist, Eugene Oliveto, that captured the attention of the courtroom. Oliveto, a psychiatrist for the Douglas County prison system, was called by the defense and testified over the objection of prosecutors that he evaluated Jenkins in 2010 while Jenkins was in prison and again on Monday after he was subpoenaed by defense lawyers.

Oliveto, who provides “medication management” for prisoners, testified that he is not a forensic psychiatrist and could not determine whether Jenkins is competent to stand trial. But that did not dissuade him from testifying that he believes Jenkins is a “psychopath” and “worse than an anti-social personality.”

“He should never have been let out,” Oliveto said. “He’s definitely crazy.”

In early January a report from the state Ombudsman’s Office said officials should have done more to get treatment for Jenkins when he was last in prison. The report said the Department of Correctional Services missed several warnings about Jenkins‘ mental health before his release in July.

Jenkins had spent most of the last two years of his sentence in isolation because of behavior problems. The report said Jenkins‘ extended segregation kept him from participating in programs that might have helped him prepare for life outside prison.

Corrections officials should have tried to have Jenkins committed to a mental hospital, the report said.

The Ombudsman’s Office provided copies of documents showing that Douglas County jail officials urged the state in 2010 to provide mental health treatment for Jenkins. A psychiatrist working for the county diagnosed Jenkins as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Corrections officials said they disagree with the report’s allegations, but they declined to comment because of pending litigation.

The husband of victim Andrea Kruger has filed a $7.5 million claim against the state of Nebraska, arguing that prison officials knew Jenkins was dangerous and should have done more to prevent the killings. That claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.

Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty.


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