[Ppnews] Omaha Police detective's "evidence" in Black Panther murder case disappeared
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 25 10:54:16 EST 2008
Original Content at
February 24, 2008
Omaha Police detective's "evidence" in Black
Panther murder case disappeared without a trace raising perjury question
By Michael Richardson
The tragic bombing murder of Omaha Police
patrolman Larry Minard on August 17, 1970
triggered a series of events, monitored by J.
Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, that led to the ultimate release
of Minard's confessed killer, Duane Peak, after
several years of juvenile detention.
Peak's brokered testimony, which bought his
freedom, implicated two leaders of Omaha's Black
Panther chapter, the National Committee to Combat
Fascism. Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa,
formerly David Rice, had been under surveillance
by Hoover's secret, and illegal, COINTELPRO
operation designed to "disrupt" the Black
Panthers, were named by Peak as his
co-conspirators. Both Poindexter and Langa were
convicted of murder and are incarcerated at the
maximum security Nebraska State Penitentiary
serving life sentences. Both men deny any involvement in the crime.
Although Peak was the prosecution's murderous
star witness, the testimony of Omaha detective
Robert Pheffer was also critical to the case as
he corroborated the account of detective Jack
Swanson's claim to have found dynamite in Langa's
basement at the trial. Pheffer has since
contradicted his own trial testimony and now
claims, under oath, that he found the dynamite
raising a question of perjury, either at the
trial or at a May 2007 hearing before Douglas
County District Court Judge Russell Bowie who was
considering a new trial request by Poindexter.
When confronted by Poindexter's attorney, Robert
Barle, over the discrepancy between his 1971
testimony at trial and his 2007 sworn testimony
before Bowie, Pheffer became noticeably flustered
and denied his own trial testimony claiming "the
court reporter, somebody got it wrong."
Dynamite never appeared in any evidence photos of
Langa's house and only first shows up in the
trunk of a police squad car in any photograph.
Pheffer's new claim to have found the dynamite
brings into question other "evidence" discovered
by the Omaha detective in the course of the
investigation. Pheffer has testified to the
discovery of other bomb-making supplies at two
locations--claims not supported by the trial
record or any police reports. Thus, the question
of Pheffer's credibility hinges on whether or not
police destroyed or hid evidence of bomb-making
equipment, allegedly found by Pheffer, at two different search locations.
At Langa's house, where Pheffer now claims he
found dynamite in the basement, Pheffer testified
to Judge Bowie that he also found in a bedroom
closet three gray Samsonite attaché cases with
wires sticking out of them. Pheffer claims after
finding the three attaché cases a rope was passed
through the handles and "lead it out the bedroom
through the front room, outside the steps" where
the cases were opened when they did not
detonate. Pheffer's dramatic discovery of the
wired attaché cases was not mentioned at trial
nor were the purported bomb parts introduced as
evidence. Pheffer didn't even bother to enter
the attaches cases into the inventory list of the
search. Nor did any other officer. In fact,
Pheffer is the sole witness to the "evidence" he
now claims to have found that somehow disappeared without a trace.
At NCCF headquarters, in a search the same
day, Pheffer found more "evidence" with another
attaché case with wires. Pheffer did testify
about that purported discovery in 1971. Pheffer
testified he found, "an attache case in the front
room with wires and a clothespin attached to
it." Yet once again, Pheffer failed to log in
the attaché case or even record it on the search
inventory list. No other officers filed reports
or testified about the case and it was not
produced at trial as evidence despite Pheffer's claims.
From the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln
writes Ed Poindexter, "Robert Pheffer said at our
trial that when he and company raided NCCF on
24th Street that he saw several unarmed suitcase
bombs in various stages of development
was lying right in front of the jury."
"Needless to say, said bomb finding did not exist
on the record; that is, they were not on the
inventory list of items confiscated from HQ, and
no one else appeared to have seen them, and of
course they did not exist in evidence. Yet he
went totally unchallenged in the courtroom when he blurted this out."
"I've been harping on this for umpteen years, but
for some reason, no one likes to talk about it."
In a recent prison interview Langa commented on
Pheffer's conflicting testimony, "We come up to
the present and here is Pheffer talking about we
found a box of dynamite in David Rice's house facing next to the furnace."
"I'm thinking about this. Well, if a person was
going to keep his dynamite next to the furnace
and I imagine it is to keep it warm, then it
would also make sense that if there were blasting
caps in the house then it would probably have
been a good thing to have these kept like on top
of the stove to be consistent with this kind of absurdity. But it was a make."
FBI agents assigned to COINTELPRO worked closely
with Omaha Police investigating the Black
Panthers. One of the techniques common to
COINTELPRO operations was creating false
documents and making false statements to "disrupt" the Panthers.
Judge Bowie ruled Pheffer's contradictory
dynamite testimony did not matter and did not
address the four attaché cases with wires that
have vanished which Pheffer claims to have found
at two locations when he denied Poindexter's bid for a new trial in September.
Now the Nebraska Supreme Court must grapple with
Pheffer's contradictory testimony and his missing
"evidence" which has left gaping holes in the
case against the two imprisoned Black
Panthers. A date for the decision in Poindexter's appeal has not been set.
Permission granted to reprint.
Authors Bio: Michael Richardson is a freelance
writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about
politics, election law, human nutrition, ethics,
and music. Richardson is also a political consultant on ballot access.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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