[Ppnews] Black Panther Ed Poindexter gets retrial hearing in 1970 frame-up

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 31 11:10:38 EDT 2007

May 25, 2007

1970 murder retrial hearing resumes next week after contradictory 
police testimony against Black Panther Ed Poindexter

By Michael Richardson

Ed Poindexter will once again be transported from his prison cell at 
the Nebraska State Penitentiary to the Douglas County Courthouse to 
witness another day of testimony in his effort to obtain a new trial 
for the 1970 murder of Omaha policeman Larry Minard.

Minard was the victim of a homemade suitcase bomb designed to kill 
police responding to an emergency call about a woman screaming in a 
vacant house.  Poindexter was the head of a Black Panther spin-off 
group called the National Committee to Combat Fascism (NCCF) and 
engaged in a war of words with police.  Omaha was an 
emotionally-charged city following the killing of 14 year-old Vivian 
Strong by police a year earlier and Poindexter had emerged as one of 
the most vocal critics of the shooting death.

Although police arrested 15 year-old Duane Peak, who confessed to the 
bombing, in a weeklong dragnet that rounded up dozens of people for 
questioning and ended up with the arrests of 14 persons, the two men 
the police were most interested in were Poindexter and David 
Rice.  Rice, NCCF Minister of Information, has since changed his name 
and is now Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa.

Convicted in 1971 for the bombing murder, the two NCCF leaders have 
been in prison serving life sentences.  Peak, who obtained a deal 
that got him sentenced as a juvenile, testified against Poindexter 
and Langa.  Peak alleged the pair made the bomb he planted in the 
vacant house.  Peak also claimed he made the emergency call that 
lured police into the deadly trap.

Earlier this month vocal analyst Tom Owen testified that Peak did not 
make the call after studying a copy of the emergency call.  The 
original tape was never used at trial and ended up missing.  However, 
a duplicate tape later surfaced as did a secret FBI memo warning the 
tape would hurt the prosecution's case.  When Owen played the tape 
earlier this month, the voice that chilled the courtroom did not 
sound like Peak's voice.

The FBI was involved in the case soon after the explosion.  An 
illegal FBI operation called COINTELPRO was underway across the 
nation targeted at the Black Panthers and other groups.  FBI memos, 
released under Freedom of Information requests, reveal a close 
involvement in building the case against Poindexter and 
Langa.  COINTELPRO agents, the public would later learn, assisted 
local police in obtaining convictions encouraging withholding of 
evidence, witness manipulation, and other illegal activities.

The two Omaha investigators most responsible for the arrest of 
Poindexter and Langa are Jack Swanson and Robert Pheffer,

Swanson, now deceased, made up a list of 39 members of the NCCF for 
the police dragnet.  Swanson was on hand when it was time to search 
Langa's house for Duane Peak, then at large.  At the trial Swanson 
was the one who found dynamite in the basement and carried it 
upstairs to a waiting car trunk.  The car trunk is the first place an 
official crime scene photograph pictures the dynamite.  Swanson also 
gave a curious BBC interview in the early 1990's where he said he 
felt he still did the right thing in 1970 and that the arrest of 
Poindexter and Langa ended the Black Panthers in Omaha.

Pheffer, now retired, testified at the trial that he saw Swanson 
carry the dynamite out of the basement.  However, earlier this month 
Pheffer contradicted his own trial testimony and claimed he found the 
dynamite not Swanson.  Pheffer, visibly agitated during cross 
examination, not only changed his story but added to it with 
considerable new information.  Pheffer now claims he also found three 
suitcases with wires in Langa's house.  The suitcases now claimed to 
have been found by Pheffer were never introduced at trial, never 
mentioned in any police report at the time, and were not listed on a 
police inventory of the house following the search.

Peak's juvenile sentencing deal, the voice discrepancy on the 
emergency tape and the conflicting dynamite testimony of detective 
Pheffer, in combination with known COINTELPRO tactics, all raise 
serious questions about the guilt of the convicted men who have 
steadfastly maintained their innocence.

After more testimony next week, Judge Russell Bowie will decide on 
Poindexter's request for a new trial.  Langa's conviction was 
overturned by both a federal district court and appellate 
court.  However, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the case returned to 
Nebraska courts where the Nebraska Supreme Court said Langa's appeal 
time lapsed while the case was in federal court.

Authors Bio: Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in 
Boston. Richardson writes about politics, election law, human 
nutrition, ethics, and music. In 2004 Richardson was Ralph Nader's 
national ballot access coordinator.

Richardson has written extensively on this case, and his past 
articles on the case are available here:


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