Another court date has been set for suspected killer Nikko Jenkins. This time, a judge will determine whether he is competent to stand trial.
On Wednesday, Judge Peter Batallion ruled that he will hold a competency hearing for Jenkins on February 12. It is expected that there will be testimony from both the state's doctor, who said he is competent, and the defense, who said he is incompetent.
But even before that happens, state senators will begin to examine how his case could change the way corrections deals with prisoners.
An independent report released on Tuesday states, among other things, that Jenkins repeatedly threatened, warned, and predicted that he would kill - yet he was released from prison.
This year’s legislative session began on Wednesday. Senators assembled briefly in the morning and then adjourned until Thursday but some big changes will be up for discussion before the session ends.
Nikko Jenkins is accused of killing four people over a period of 10 days last summer and that’s the backdrop against which lawmakers will consider how to fix a corrections system on trial.
State Ombudsman Marshall Lux said, "We've got to learn the lessons from a situation like this."
Lux is the independent voice of alarm for the system. His 60-page report shows many problems and outlines reasons why Jenkins should not have been released from prison last July.
The man who's been the State Ombudsman for 33-years says this comes down to a case in which the state was more concerned about security and confinement than about rehabilitating Nikko Jenkins.
We asked Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine if the scathing report will impact the criminal case and he said, “I don't really think it does. Obviously, we feel he is responsible for what he has done here - what we've alleged that he has done. I don't think that has an impact on what we're doing."
In the weeks before his release, Nikko Jenkins himself asked to be committed for mental health. It never happened. Most of the state doctors didn't believe a sociopath could be treated.
Marshall Lux said, "There are going to be people that nothing will help. We need to remind ourselves that we can reform things and make them better. This system needs to be made better."
This comes as a new report claims the state Department of Corrections may have contributed to Jenkins' mental health problems by isolating him from other inmates. Jenkins should have been processed differently in the Nebraska prison system. That's one of many conclusions and assertions in the report released Tuesday by Nebraska State Ombudsman Marshal Lux.
Among other things, the long, detailed report says the Department of Corrections should have done a better job of preparing Jenkins for release back into society. As it was, the report notes that for the last two years of his confinement, Jenkins was in solitary confinement.
The ombudsman document notes that this confinement would not only do little to treat any existing mental health issues that Jenkins had, but had potential to make his mental health issues worse.
The report notes that while in confinement Jenkins received no mental health treatment, yet it notes Jenkins was considered such a liability that he had to be isolated from the rest of the prison population. He went from that status to complete freedom on the streets with no preparation.
The Nebraska Department of Corrections tells WOWT 6 News that it disagrees with the factual findings in the report, but won't elaborate because Michael-Ryan Kruger has a $7.5 million lawsuit against the state.
Jenkins stands accused of killing four people over a 10-day period last August, which began just days after his release from prison.
The crime spree has set off a wide-ranging debate over the treatment of prisoners, the access they have to mental health care, the practice of giving prisoners shorter sentenced for so-called "good time" and more.
Shortly after the killing spree, the director of the Nebraska Department of Corrections, Bob Houston, decided to retire. The department earlier had come under fire when an inmate, being used as a state driver, ended up causing a crash that killed a Lincoln woman.