[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
Original Content at
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
.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.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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