[Ppnews] Nebraska Supreme Court to review 1971 COINTELPRO case against Black Panthers

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 25 11:26:44 EST 2008


OpEdNews

Original Content at 
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_michael__080124_nebraska_supreme_cou.htm

----------
January 24, 2008

Nebraska Supreme Court to review 1971 COINTELPRO case against Black Panthers

By Michael Richardson

The Nebraska Supreme Court will hear the appeal 
of Ed Poindexter of his 1971 conviction for the 
bombing murder of Omaha Policeman Larry 
Minard.  Poindexter was the head of Omaha's Black 
Panther chapter, the National Committee to Combat 
Fascism, when he was arrested shortly after the August 1970 murder of Minard.

Poindexter and his co-defendant, Mondo we Langa 
(formerly David Rice), who both maintain their 
innocence, were convicted largely on the brokered 
testimony of 15 year-old Duane Peak, the 
confessed bomber, and dynamite allegedly found in 
Langa's basement.  Peak implicated Poindexter and 
Langa in exchange for a lenient sentence as a 
juvenile instead of facing the electric chair.

The state high court will examine two key points 
that emerged from testimony in May 2007 in the 
courtroom of Douglas County District Court Judge 
Russell Bowie.  Contradictory police testimony 
about the dynamite and expert witness testimony 
that Peak did not make the emergency call that 
lured Minard to his death have opened a huge 
breach in the prosecution case against the two Panther leaders.

Unknown to the public at the time was the 
clandestine and illegal COINTELPRO operation that 
Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar 
Hoover had ordered into operation against the 
Black Panthers.  Both Poindexter and Langa had 
been under surveillance since a 1968 visit to 
Omaha by national Panther Minister of Information 
Eldridge Cleaver.  Langa, then Rice, had managed 
to get the attention of federal authorities as 
well as local police, evidenced in a letter from 
a Nebraska district U.S. Attorney to 
Representative William Scherle on the U.S. House 
Committee on Internal Security calling Langa, "this American rat."

"Dear Congressman Scherle:  I bless you for your 
activities in turning the cold light of dawn upon 
those who would destroy our Country's 
development
.Such a man is David L. Rice, who can 
be most easily identified by the enclosed 
clipping out of the Sun Newspapers of Omaha, 
Nebraska, where this bum operates.  As you notice 
he sneers at the Constitution and its provisions, 
but saw it to take the Fifth Amendment when 
called before a Federal Grand Jury inquiring into 
the installation of a school designed to train 
young Blacks to bomb, kill and take over the Country."

Federal COINTELPRO agents worked the Minard case 
with Omaha Police and helped cover-up the fact 
that Peak's voice did not sound like that on the 
tape of the emergency call.  The tape was not 
submitted to the defense attorneys and was not 
part of the trial.  The recording disappeared 
until years later a copy, made by the dispatcher, emerged.

Langa raised the issue of the voice on the tape 
in a 1983 appeal to the Nebraska Supreme 
Court.  At that time, the Court noted there had 
been no "expert in voice analysis" examination of 
the tape and thus, "there is insufficient 
evidence to support the claim that Duane Peak did 
not make the call."  However, in May 2007 Judge 
Bowie did hear expert witness testimony about the 
voice on the tape.  Voice analyst Tom Owen 
testified that in his opinion the voice was not 
that of Peak thus undermining the credibility of the state's chief witness.

Judge Bowie sidestepped the tape issue leaving 
the matter for the Supreme Court to grapple with 
again.  "Mr. Poindexter has not shown that Mr. 
Owen's opinion would most likely produce an 
acquittal in a new trial.  This is not a case 
where the guilt or innocence of the defendant 
hinges on whether a jury believed that Mr. Peak 
made the 911 call.  That is but one part of the 
evidence against the defendant."

One other part of the evidence that convicted 
Poindexter and Langa was the police testimony 
about finding dynamite in Langa's basement.  At 
the trial, Sgt. Jack Swanson testified he found 
the dynamite in a box in the coal bin of the 
basement.  Detective Robert Pheffer backed up 
Swanson testifying he first saw the explosives 
when Swanson carried them up from the basement.

However, in May of last year before Judge Bowie, 
Pheffer changed his story and forcefully claimed 
he found the dynamite, not Swanson, contradicting 
his own sworn testimony from 1971.  He also 
alleged he found bomb-making supplies in the 
house that were never previously introduced and 
are not on the police search inventory of Langa's house.

Judge Bowie, after spending months deliberating 
ruled in September, "Other than the conflicting 
reports about who found the dynamite in Rice's 
basement, there is no evidence to suggest that 
dynamite was planted by the police.  The bottom 
line is that dynamite was found in Rice's 
basement, who found it is immaterial."

An appeal "bill of exceptions" was filed with the 
Nebraska Supreme Court on Dec. 12th and 
Poindexter's brief is due January 28th to be 
followed by the state's brief before oral 
arguments are scheduled.  Poindexter and Langa 
have been behind bars since August 1970 and are 
both are presently in the maximum security 
Nebraska State Penitentiary serving life sentences.

  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.




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