[Ppnews] 'Omaha Two' prosecutor: "It doesn't make any difference what the truth is"

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 28 15:44:16 EST 2008


November 28, 2008
'Omaha Two' prosecutor: "It doesn't make any difference what the truth is"

By Michael Richardson

The Nebraska news media doesn't like to dig too deep into the 1970 
bombing murder in Omaha of  police officer Larry Minard.  The 
conventional story that the deadly ambush against police was the work 
of the Black Panther leadership has been well accepted by the general 
public and news media for almost four decades.  However, the fabric 
of the story presented to the jury in April 1971 has been unraveling 
ever since it was spun together.  A search of the voluminous court 
file in the case reveals disturbing details left out of news reports.

Unknown to jurors, the 'Omaha Two', Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa 
(formerly David Rice), were targets of a clandestine operation of the 
Federal Bureau of Investigation code-named COINTELPRO.  FBI director 
J. Edgar Hoover had secretly ordered a lab report not be issued on 
the recording of the killer's voice that lured police to a vacant 
house where a suitcase bomb waited. The two Panther leaders were 
COINTELPRO targets and Hoover wanted to make a case against them.

Also unknown to the jurors, Art O'Leary, the chief prosecutor who 
stood before them, did not care about the truth.  In a police 
interrogation room, O'Leary would tell 15-year old Duane Peak, the 
confessed bomber, "As a practical matter, it doesn't make any 
difference what the truth is concerning you at all."

"You realize now that it doesn't make any difference whether you did 
or didn't.  That doesn't really make one bit of difference at all at 
this stage of the game but I want to make sure concerning somebody 
else that might have been involved.  Because you see what it amounts 
to, Duane, is that eventually you are going to have to testify about 
everything you said here and it isn't going to make one bit of 
difference whether or not you leave out one fact or not, as far as 
you are concerned.  Do you understand what I am trying to tell you?"

Peak got O'Leary's message and after a half-dozen different versions 
of his story finally implicated the two Panther leaders.  Poindexter 
and Langa headed the Omaha chapter called the Nebraska Committee to 
Combat Fascism.  In exchange for his testimony Peak received leniency 
and was sentenced as a juvenile only serving 33 months in detention 
before walking free.

One problem with the official version of events was the tape 
recording of a killer's voice that Peak claimed was his.  The 
recording of a male voice is gruff and sounds more like a middle-aged 
man than a 15-year old.  By ordering no report of a vocal analysis 
conducted by the FBI Crime Laboratory, Hoover was able to keep 
defense attorneys clueless about the outcome of testing.  In 2007, 
vocal analyst Tom Owen testified in an Omaha courtroom that the voice 
on the emergency call tape was not that of Peak.

On the day of his preliminary hearing Peak was still offering 
differing versions telling the court in the morning that Poindexter 
was not present when the bomb was made.  However, a hastily convened 
recess of several hours before the teenage killer returned to the 
stand in the afternoon changed his story yet again.  After the 
recess, Peak wore sunglasses to the witness stand.  When asked to 
remove the glasses Peak's eyes were red and puffy.  Peak was also 
noticeably trembling and shaky.  Defense attorney David Herzog asked 
Peak about his sudden change of demeanor.

ATTORNEY:  "What happened to make you shake and bring your nervous 
condition about now?"

PEAK:  "I don' know."

ATTORNEY:  "You had a conversation between the time you were placed 
on the witness stand this morning and the present time now, isn't 
that correct?"

PEAK:  "Yes."

ATTORNEY:  "And there were the same things that the police officers 
told you about that would happen to you, like sitting in the electric 
chair, isn't that correct?"

PEAK:  "I didn't have a chance."

ATTORNEY:  "You didn't have a chance, did you?"

PEAK:  "No."

ATTORNEY:  "You are doing what they want you to do, aren't you?"

PEAK:  "Yes."

O'Leary, the man for whom the truth did not matter, also released 
Raleigh House from custody after only one night in jail.  House was 
the named source of the dynamite used to kill patrolman Minard and 
was blamed at trial for supplying the explosive yet O'Leary released 
him on his own signature and never brought formal charges against 
House for his role in the murder.  The get-out-of-jail-free pass 
granted by O'Leary for the supplier of the dynamite suggests that 
House was a police informant.

Robert Bartle, Poindexter's attorney is blunt about the prosecution 
behavior.  "Prosecutorial misconduct is an offense which undermines 
the integrity of our justice system.  When those who have been 
entrusted with the enforcement of our laws ignore the prohibitions 
imposed on them by the legislature through statutes, and by the 
judiciary through case law, they insult the entire legal system, and 
upset the scales of justice."

"When prosecutorial misconduct is coupled with ineffective assistance 
of counsel, presented in this case, a defendant has two strikes 
against him from the start.  Edward Poindexter has met his burden of 
proving both prosecutorial misconduct and ineffectiveness of trial 
and appellate counsel.  He did not receive a fair jury trial in 1971 
because of these fundamental constitutional violations.  Accordingly, 
he must be given a new trial to prevent a further miscarriage of justice."

The 'Omaha Two' remain imprisoned at the maximum-security Nebraska 
State Penitentiary where they are both serving life sentences.  Both 
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa deny any involvement in Minard's 
death.  The Nebraska Supreme Court now has Poindexter's request for a 
new trial pending before them.  No date has been set for a decision.

  Permission granted to reprint

Authors Bio: Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in 
Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and 
music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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