[Ppnews] Framed by the FBI: A dozen reasons the 'Omaha Two' deserve a new trial - Part 2
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Tue Mar 3 10:26:10 EST 2009
Original Content at
March 3, 2009
Framed by the FBI: A dozen reasons the 'Omaha Two' deserve a new trial - Part 2
By Michael Richardson
Omaha Police officer Marvin McClarty
On August 17, 1970, an Omaha, Nebraska policeman,
Larry Minard, was murdered in an ambush bombing
at a vacant house. Two men, Edward Poindexter
and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice), are
serving life sentences at the Nebraska State
Penitentiary for his killing. The pair were
leaders of Omaha's chapter of the Black Panther
Party. Most people assume justice was done in
the case and little effort has been made by the
news media to dig into the hidden aspects of the crime.
Poindexter has a new trial request pending before
the Nebraska Supreme Court and an examination of
the record, much of it still hidden by Federal
Bureau of Investigation censors, reveals a dozen
reasons to question the outcome of the trial.
New Trial Reason Three: Conflicting police
testimony about dynamite--Jack Swanson
At the murder trial, a detective, Jack Swanson,
alleged he found dynamite in the basement of
Mondo we Langa's residence. Swanson's story was
that he found the dynamite and that another
detective, Robert Pheffer was with him. However,
Pheffer testified he never went down into the
basement and first saw the dynamite when Swanson
carried up the stairs. The jury did not find the
discrepancy significant enough to acquit the
defendants. What the jury didn't know is that
Pheffer would, years later, contradict his own
trial testimony and claim, under oath, that he
was the first one down in the basement and he found the dynamite not Swanson.
Omaha police officer Marvin McClarty was on duty
the night of the search of Mondo's
house. McClarty's suspicions that the dynamite
was planted by the detectives were aroused that
night. In the 1980's McClarty told a British
film crew about his suspicions. "I had feelings
they were out to get those two because they were
probably the two that were the most vocal, they
were the two the people viewed as guilty, the police did."
"I was on duty; we saw them bringing items out of
the house. The thing that was so striking to me
and to those two officers I was with was the fact
the police had blocked off 29th to 30th on Parker
Street, and they blocked that off to vehicular
traffic and to pedestrian traffic. Then they
said they found something in the house. To me
and the other police officers, the first thing
that strikes you that maybe is something is wrong
here because of the way that search was
conducted. That was when we drew our suspicions
that it could have been something that was
planted in that house. To this day I still
believe it was planted in that house."
Swanson is dead now but before his death, he told
the same British film crew about his role in the
dynamite discovery stumbling over his words in a
confusing contradiction of his trial
testimony. "I was there, I found it, I didn't
personally discover it but I was there when it
was discovered and went right to where it was. It was there."
At the time of the search Swanson was in charge
of another case against three men stopped in July
with dynamite, a case kept out of the
news. Conflicting police accounts of the amount
of explosives seized could have left Swanson with
as many as nine unaccounted sticks of dynamite at
the time of the search of Mondo we Langa's house.
Swanson closed his interview with the British
film crew with a vague and cryptic, "I still think we did the right thing."
New Trial Reason Four: Conflicting police
testimony about dynamite--Robert Pheffer
Detective Robert Pheffer not only contradicted
Jack Swanson at trial over whether or not he was
in the basement of Mondo we Langa's house, he has
since contracted his own trial testimony about who found dynamite.
At a 2007 hearing to consider Ed Poindexter's
request for a new trial, Pheffer testified he was
first one down in the basement and he found
dynamite. When confronted by Poindexter's
attorney, Robert Bartle, over the discrepancy
between his 1971 testimony and his 2007
testimony, Pheffer became noticeably flustered
and denied his own trial testimony claiming "the
court reporter, somebody got it wrong."
Pheffer's new claim to have found the dynamite
brings into question other 'evidence' allegedly
found by the Omaha detective in the course of the
investigation. Pheffer has testified to the
discovery of other bomb-making supplies at two
locations--claims not supported by the trial
record or any police reports. Thus, the question
of Pheffer's credibility hinges on whether or not
police destroyed or hid evidence of bomb-making
equipment allegedly found by Pheffer at two
different locations. At the District Court where
Pheffer's contradictions were on full display,
Judge Russell Bowie dismissed the problem police testimony.
Judge Bowie wrote: "Other than the conflicting
reports about who found the dynamite in Rice's
[Mondo we Langa] basement, there is no evidence
to suggest the dynamite was planted by
police. The bottom line is that dynamite was
found in Rice's basement, who found it is immaterial."
Bowie did not address at all Pheffer's other
'discoveries'. At Mondo we Langa's house Pheffer
testified he found in a bedroom closet three gray
Samonsite attaché cases with wires sticking out
of them. Pheffer claims after finding the three
attaché cases, a rope was passed through the
handles and "lead it out the bedroom through the
front room, outside the steps" where the cases
were opened when they did not detonate.
Pheffer's dramatic discovery of wired attaché
cases was not mentioned at trial nor were
purported bomb parts introduced as
evidence. Pheffer didn't bother to enter the
attaché cases into the inventory list of the
search. Nor did any other officer. Pheffer is
the sole witness to 'evidence' he now claims to
have found that somehow disappeared without a trace.
Pheffer also claims he found another attaché case
with wires at the Panther headquarters. Pheffer
insists he found "an attaché case in the front
room with wires and a clothespin attached to
it." Yet once again, Pheffer failed to log in
the attaché cases or even record it on the search
inventory list. No other officers filed reports
or testified about the wired case and it was not produced at trial.
Pheffer's vanishing attaché cases and altered
testimony about entering the basement during the
dynamite search suggest perjury and yet his
conflicting testimony was deemed 'immaterial' by Judge Bowie.
Permission granted to reprint
Author's 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.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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