[Ppnews] Angola 3 Black Panther conviction reversed after 35 years; attention now turns to Omaha Two case

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 30 10:58:46 EDT 2008

September 29, 2008 at 15:53:59

Headlined on 9/29/08:
3' Black Panther conviction reversed after 35 years; attention now 
turns to 'Omaha Two' case

by <http://www.opednews.com/author/author3874.html>Michael Richardson


U.S. District Court Judge James J. Brady in Baton Rouge, Louisiana 
has ordered the state to either free or retry Albert Woodfox after 
almost three dozen years in solitary confinement.  Woodfox, tried 
with two other co-defendants, was convicted for the 1972 murder of 
prison guard Brent Miller at Angola Prison where Woodfox was serving 
a sentence for armed robbery.

After a controversial trial and an even more disputed second trial in 
1998 when he was retried following appeal of his first conviction, 
Woodfox may see freedom from the infamous prison where he has been 
held in virtual isolation for over three decades.

Woodfox had been active in a prison chapter of the Black Panthers in 
racially-charged Angola Prison, a vast plantation-style penitentiary 
in rural Louisiana.  Following conviction for the stabbing murder of 
Miller, a life sentence was imposed and Angola officials decided that 
for security reasons Woodfox and fellow Panther Herman Wallace would 
be held in solitary confinement.  The 6' by 9' isolation cells would 
become home, night and day, for thirty-five years.

Magistrate Docia L. Dalby has described the punishment meted out to 
the two Panthers as, "durations so far beyond the pale that this 
court has not found anything even remotely comparable in the annals 
of American jurisprudence."

Judge Brady, after a careful review of the trial record and 
recommendation of Magistrate Judge Christine Noland, determined that 
Woodfox had not received a fair trial; that his attorney failed to 
adequately represent him; and that the state's chief witness, 
Hezekiah Brown, had gotten a reduced sentence for naming 
Woodfox.  Further, exculpatory information about the physical 
evidence in the case, bloodstains, was withheld from the jury.

While Woodfox waits for a prosecutor's decision on his future, 
another Black Panther in the Nebraska State Penitentiary, Ed 
Poindexter, waits for a ruling from the Nebraska Supreme Court on his 
request for a new trial.  Poindexter and fellow Panther activist 
Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) were convicted in April 1971 for 
the bombing murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard.

Unlike Woodfox, who was an inmate at the time of his alleged crime, 
Poindexter and Langa were free and officers in the Nebraska Committee 
to Combat Fascism and were Omaha's most vocal police critics.  On 
August 17, 1970, police were lured to a vacant house investigating a 
report of a woman screaming when a bomb killed Minard and injured 
seven other police officers.  Within two days of the bombing, J. 
Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who 
had targeted the Black Panthers, ordered Ivan Willard Conrad, 
director of the FBI national crime laboratory to withhold information 
that was not favorable to the prosecution of Poindexter and Langa for 
Minard's murder.

Hoover was at war with the Black Panthers and secretly directed a 
clandestine "no holds barred" operation, code-named COINTELPRO, to 
put the group out of existence.  Using illegal tactics, FBI agents 
engaged in a nationwide campaign that encouraged violence, planted 
evidence, withheld evidence, obtained false arrests, and took a host 
of other measures that would later be denounced by the U.S. Senate 
Select Committee to Study Government Operations commonly known as the 
Church Committee.

At question in the Minard killing was the identity of the unknown 
caller who made the emergency call to police headquarters.  Hidden 
for years behind a secrecy stamp, Omaha Asst. Chief of Police Glen W. 
Gates, in a confidential COINTELPRO memo to Hoover, asked the FBI to 
abandon the search for the killer who made the call because it might 
"prejudice the police murder trial" against Poindexter and Langa.

Ultimately a 15 year-old, Duane Peak, confessed to the crime and 
claimed he made the phone call and that Poindexter and Langa put him 
up to the murder.  Peak's story falls apart if someone else made the 
deadly call.  The tape recording, which was withheld from the jury 
that convicted the two Panther leaders, did not sound like Peak but 
rather resonated with the voice of an older man.

The tape was destroyed by local authorities after the trial only to 
have a duplicate recording emerge years later.  The duplicate tape 
was subjected to modern vocal analysis in 2006.  Expert Tom Owens has 
testified that the voice on the tape is not that of Peak, thus 
leaving an unidentified accomplice on the loose.

Poindexter is seeking a new trial over the withheld evidence and the 
Nebraska Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case this 
week.  No date has been set for a decision.  Poindexter and Langa are 
serving life sentences at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.  Both men 
deny any involvement in the crime.
Permission granted to reprint

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

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