[Ppnews] Conflicting dynamite testimony by police detailed to Nebraska Supreme Court raises doubt in 1971 Black Panther case

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 31 11:02:27 EST 2008


OpEdNews

Original Content at 
http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_michael__080130_conflicting_dynamite.htm

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January 30, 2008

Conflicting dynamite testimony by police detailed 
to Nebraska Supreme Court raises doubt in 1971 Black Panther case

By Michael Richardson

Black Panther leaders Ed Poindexter and Mondo we 
Langa, formerly David Rice, are serving life 
sentences for the 1970 bombing murder of Omaha 
police officer Larry Minard.  Targets of the 
secret COINTELPRO operation of the Federal Bureau 
of Investigation against the Black Panthers, 
Poindexter and Langa were already under close 
surveillance when they were arrested along with a 
dozen others during the murder investigation.

Eventually charges would be dropped against all 
but 15 year-old Duane Peak, the confessed bomber, 
and the two Panther leaders who ran the Omaha 
chapter then called the National Committee to 
Combat Fascism.  Peak struck a deal with 
prosecutors and implicated Poindexter and Langa 
in exchange for sentencing as a juvenile which 
allowed him to walk free in 1974.

Two Omaha detectives, Jack Swanson and Robert 
Pheffer, came up with the dynamite, purportedly 
found in Langa's basement, that corroborated 
Peak's story.  However, police crime scene 
photographs of the basement do not picture 
dynamite.  The explosives do not appear in 
evidence photos until they show up in the trunk of a police squad car.

In a bid for a new trial, filed in 2004, 
Poindexter is now before the state high court 
where the justices must rule on a variety of 
matters including the discovery of the 
dynamite.  Poindexter's appeal brief details the 
different versions given by the two officers.

"At Poindexter's trial, Sgt. Swanson testified 
that he found dynamite in Rice's basement at 2816 
Parker, and that Sgt. Pheffer was also in the 
basement when Swanson found it.  Contrary to 
Swanson's trial testimony, Pheffer testified that 
he (Pheffer) never went down into Rice's 
basement, and that he (Pheffer) first saw the 
dynamite found by Swanson when Swanson carried it up from Rice's basement."

"At Poindexter's post-conviction hearing on May 
30, 2007, Pheffer's testimony about finding the 
dynamite in Rice's basement was significantly 
different from his sworn trial testimony 36 years 
earlier.  On May 30, 2007, Pheffer testified he 
was the one who found the dynamite in Rice's 
basement
.Pheffer claimed that Swanson was right 
behind him and that when Pheffer saw the 
dynamite, he became scared and told Swanson that 
they needed to 'get the heck out of here'".

"When confronted with the discrepancy between 
Pheffer's sworn trial testimony in 1971 and his 
recent testimony of actually being the officer 
who found the dynamite, Pheffer swore that this 
trial testimony in 1971 was not correct, that 
'the court reporter, somebody got it wrong.'".

"At trial, Officer Swanson testified that he 
found dynamite in Rice's basement, and that 
Officer Pheffer was also in the basement when he 
found it.  Contrary to Swanson's testimony, 
Pheffer testified that he never went down to the 
basement.  Whether perjury or simply inconsistent 
statements, Pheffer's testimony about being in 
the basement when the dynamite was found was an 
extremely significant discrepancy."

"When confronted with this contradiction on May 
30th, he vehemently denied that he had testified 
thus at trial.  For Officer Pheffer now to 
disavow his trial testimony calls into question 
the credibility of the trial testimony of both Officers Swanson and Pheffer."

District Judge Russell Bowie, who heard Pheffer's 
contradictory testimony, shrugged off the 
opposing sworn statements in his Sept. 10, 2007 
ruling against a new trial.  "Other than the 
conflicting reports about who found the dynamite 
in Rice's basement, there is no evidence to 
suggest that the dynamite was planted by 
police.  The bottom line is that dynamite was 
found in Rice's basement, who found it is immaterial."

Another reason the credibility of Pheffer is now 
in question strongly suggests perjury rather than 
inconsistency.  Pheffer has twice claimed to have 
found evidence of bomb-making supplies that were 
never seen by anyone else, not identified in any 
police report, and are missing from Pheffer's own investigative reports.

"Pheffer's post-conviction testimony is also 
notable related to what he claimed to have found 
in a closet in Rice's first floor 
bedroom.  Pheffer claimed that during the search 
he went into Rice's bedroom, and in a closet, he 
found three attaché suitcases, Samsonite, kind of 
grayish, kind of bluish, gray color that had 
wires sticking out of all three of them.  Pheffer 
claimed that after finding these attaché cases, 
either the ATF or one of the cruisers got a rope 
and "gingerly wrapped" the rope through the three 
handles of the suitcase and "lead it out the 
bedroom through the front room, outside the 
steps, hid behind a cruiser and pulled 
it."  Pheffer then claimed  that because the 
suitcases didn't "go off", they opened the cases 
and found they were wired inside, probably, he 
assumes, to make three more suitcase bombs."

"Asked about the reports that he completed 
regarding the search at 2816 Parker, Pheffer 
acknowledged that Exhibit 142 and 106 were 
reports of the search; but that these reports 
stated nothing about any attache cases being found."

"Interestingly, Pheffer also claimed to have 
found an attaché case during the search of NCCF 
headquarters on August 22, 1970.  More 
specifically, Pheffer testified at Poindexter's 
suppression hearing that he (Pheffer) found "an 
attaché case in the front room with wires and a 
clothespin attached to it."  Pheffer also 
acknowledged that the property and incident 
reports surrounding the search at NCCF 
headquarters contained no mention whatsoever of 
finding the attaché case with wires and a clothespin attached."

The next step in the litigation is for the 
prosecution to submit a response to Poindexter's 
appeal.  No date has been scheduled for a decision.

Poindexter's attorney, Robert Bartle of Lincoln, 
Nebraska, sums the case up with a simple statement, "It is about injustice."

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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