A member of the special legislative committee investigating the release of serial killer Nikko Jenkins from prison has fired back at Gov. Dave Heineman.
Heineman earlier in the week criticized state Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, chairman of the committee, accusing Lathrop of reaching a conclusion about the case before the committee completes its work.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha came to Lathrop’s defense during a hearing today at the Capitol.
“The attacks he made on the chairman of this committee I think were unwarranted. I think they were unprofessional. I think they were politically motivated,” Chambers stated.
The Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee has been reviewing the premature release of prison inmates as well as the Nikko Jenkins case.
Jenkins has been convicted of killing four people in Omaha after being released from prison at the end of July 2013.
Heineman has called for a change in the state “good time” law in wake of the Jenkins’ case. The law grants prison inmates automatic credit for good time served; one day of good time for each day served in prison. The governor criticized Judiciary Committee Chairman, Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, for bottling up a bill to change the good time law and not allowing it out of committee. He also criticized Lathrop, a member of the Judiciary Committee and now chair of the special committee.
Chambers blamed the Heineman Administration, and especially the Department of Correctional Services, for failing to seek a civil commitment of Jenkins and, rather, releasing him from prison.
Chambers accused Heineman of trying to deflect the culpability of the governor’s administration in the Jenkins’ case.
“And for that hypocritical governor to now say that somehow this committee or Sen. Ashford or even the legislature is responsible for what Nikko Jenkins did is reprehensible,” Chambers said.
Chambers asserted Jenkins would still be locked up if the administration had move to have him civilly committed.
“There did not have to be four murders,” Chambers said. “Those people did not have to die. But they didn’t die, because of Brad Ashford or Sen. Lathrop or the legislature, but because of the governor’s administration.”
Chambers accused the governor of being more interested in cutting the state budget than in funding the programs that would have treated Jenkins’ mental illness and helped him and other inmates make a transition from prison to freedom.
AUDIO: Sen. Ernie Chambers reacts to Gov. Dave Heineman’s criticism of Sen. Steve Lathrop. [18 min.]