[Ppnews] Nebraska Supreme Court denies Ed Poindexter a new trial

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 19 15:12:23 EDT 2009

Nebraska Supreme Court ignores COINTELPRO and conflicting police 
testimony in 'Omaha Two' case

June 19, 2:39 PM

The Nebraska Supreme Court has denied Edward Poindexter a new trial 
for the 1970 bombing murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard. 
Poindexter and co-defendant Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) were 
convicted in an April 1971 trial for the ambush murder of Minard.

Unknown to the jury hearing the case, a secret operation of the 
Federal Bureau of Investigation code-named Operation COINTELPO had 
targeted Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa because of their role as 
leaders of Omaha's chapter of the Black Panthers.

When news of the Omaha bombing reached FBI headquarters the director, 
J. Edgar Hoover, gave orders to withhold a laboratory report of the 
911 hotline recording which captured the voice of Minard's killer who 
lured police to a vacant house where a bomb waited.

A 15 year-old, Duane Peak, would confess to planting the bomb and 
making the 911 call. However, COINTELRO agents, led by Asst. FBI 
director William Sullivan, were under orders from Hoover to be 
"imaginative" in getting the two Panther leaders.

Threats of execution, a lenient sentence, and special conditions in 
custody brought Peak around to claiming the 'Omaha Two' leaders of 
the Black Panthers were behind the crime. Dynamite was purportedly 
found in Mondo's basement and the two men were convicted and 
sentenced to life imprisonment.

The jury would never hear the 911 call and did not know the voice on 
the recording would one day be tested with sophisticated equipment 
that ruled out Peak as the caller leaving an unidentified accomplice 
on the loose.

The 911 recording, kept from the jury, and conflicting dynamite 
testimony by Omaha Police detectives were key elements of 
Poindexter's request for a new trial. After deliberating on the 
request for half a year the Nebraska Supreme Court issued a 22-page 
decision denying the request without once mentioning COINTELPRO and 
J. Edgar Hoover's secret order to not issue a lab report.

The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union submitted 
an amicus brief outlining COINTELPRO and the rigging of other trials 
against Black Panther members around the nation. The appellate record 
also contained COINTELPRO documents detailing the targeting of both 
Poindexter and Mondo we Langa as well as the secret memos to withhold 
the laboratory report on the 911 recording.

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that "even assuming" the voice of 
the killer making the 911 call was not that of Duane Peak a new trial 
was not justified.

"Lt. James Perry, the head of the investigation for the Minard 
slaying, testified in a 1980 deposition that he was unaware of any 
request to have the tape tested but that he recalled discussion of 
the possibility before the police department knew who had made the 
call. Perry testified that once Peak admitted to making the 911 call, 
the department considered the tape of that call a relatively 
worthless piece of evidence."

The conflicting trial and post-trial testimony of detectives Jack 
Swanson and Robert Pheffer, where they each took turns claiming 
discovery of dynamite in Mondo we Langa's basement, was dismissed by 
the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Swanson, who had custody of unaccounted for dynamite in an unrelated 
case, purportedly found dynamite in the basement, first in a coal bin 
and later near the furnace. Pheffer, who at trial said he never even 
went into the basement, would tell an Omaha judge in 2007 that he was 
the first person down and he found the dynamite not Swanson.

The Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed this crucial conflicting 
testimony about dynamite with one paragraph out of the 22 page 
decision and did not mention Pheffer's post-trial version of the 
dynamite discovery at all.

"At trial, Swanson testified that he found dynamite in Rice's 
basement and that Pfeffer was also in the basement when the dynamite 
was found. Pheffer, on the other hand, testified at trial that he 
never went to the basement and that he did not see the dynamite until 
Swanson carried it up from the basement. Trial counsel did not spend 
time exploring who was really in the basement when the dynamite was 
found, and this was reasonable given that the particulars of who 
found the dynamite and who was with that person at the time are 
relatively insignificant."

An appeal to the federal court system is expected. Meanwhile Ed 
Poindexter and Mondo we Langa continue to remain in maximum-security 
cells, imprisoned for a crime they continue to deny any guilt. Duane 
Peak, the confessed killer, got his deal and served 33 months in 
juvenile detention before walking free. The unknown 911 caller, who 
lured Minard to his death, has never been identified and was never 
charged for the murder.

For more 

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