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Nebraska governor says he favors death penalty for man charged in four killings

Nebraska state Governor Dave Heineman attends the signing of a trade agreement with Pedro Alvarez, head of the Cuban food import agency Alim
Nebraska state Governor Dave Heineman attends the signing of a trade agreement with Pedro Alvarez, head of the Cuban food import agency Alim

By Mary Wisniewski

(Reuters) - Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has told Omaha's head prosecutor that he endorses efforts to seek the death penalty for a man charged with committing four murders in two weeks.

Republican Heineman expressed his support of Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine in a letter made public on Thursday. Kleine has said he would "likely" seek death for Nikko Jenkins, 26, who has been accused of killing Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena on August 11, Curtis Bradford on August 19, and Andrea Kruger on August 21.

Jenkins, who was released from prison on July 30, was charged on Wednesday with four counts of murder, according to Omaha police.

Kleine and Jenkins' public defender, Scott Sladek, were not immediately available for comment.

Nebraska has put three people to death since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld capital punishment in 1976, the last in 1997, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Heineman wrote that while some people object to the death penalty, "I know that the vast majority of Nebraskans believe that the only just sentence for a criminal who has terrorized the community with repeated murders is death."

Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said it was "certainly unusual and somewhat questionable" for a governor to say whether a prosecuting attorney should seek the ultimate punishment.

"You don't usually lobby the district attorney," Dieter said. "They have a certain process they have to follow."

He said Heineman's remarks were not unprecedented. In 1996, New York Governor George Pataki removed a prosecutor from a case involving an accused killer of a police officer because he thought the attorney would not seek the death penalty.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by David Bailey)

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