Thursday, March 5, 2009

Framed by the FBI: A dozen reasons the 'Omaha Two' deserve a new trial (4 of 6)

Original Content at

March 5, 2009

Framed by the FBI: A dozen reasons the 'Omaha Two' deserve a new trial (4 of 6)
By Michael Richardson

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 Seven: Conflicting police testimony about dynamite--Murdock Platner

Captain Murdock Platner of the Omaha Police Department made two trips to Capitol Hill to testify under oath about the 'Omaha Two' case. Although the hearings were days apart in October 1970, Murdock gave conflicting testimony about dynamite that police believed was used in the August 17th bombing.

Murdock not only contradicted Duane Peak's preliminary hearing testimony about the source of the dynamite used to construct the bomb that killed Larry Minard, but Platner also gave conflicting accounts of the seizure of dynamite three weeks before the bombing leaving nine sticks of the explosives unaccounted for.

In two sessions of Congressional testimony a week apart, unreported by the news media and kept from the murder trial jury, Platner gave two differing amounts of dynamite seized by police under the command of detective Jack Swanson. The difference is significant because a week after Minard's death, Swanson allegedly found dynamite in the basement of Mondo we Langa's residence.

On October 6, 1970, Platner testified that "about 60" sticks of dynamite were recovered in July with the arrests of Luther Payne, Lamont Mitchell and Conrad Gray.

"We have learned through confidential informants that the dynamite was stolen from a place called Quick Supply Co. in Des Moines and transferred across the State line into the Omaha area….There were probably ten cases of this dynamite that was stolen from Des Moines and brought into the Omaha area. We were in contact with a white man who we knew was buying stolen property for these people, and we asked him to ask them about dynamite, and we thought possibly we could buy it. We eventually did buy about 60 sticks of dynamite from them."

By October 14th the "about 60" sticks of dynamite shrunk to 51 leaving "about" nine sticks of dynamite unaccounted for. Platner appeared before a different Congressional committee and offered a different amount of explosives.

"We received information from a party that had been approached to buy dynamite. We had him buy it and he bought 10 sticks. It was 2 ½ by 16-inch sticks. He came back later and said he could buy more of this dynamite. So we set him up to buy and then we were going to move in before it was delivered. We did move in and arrest three young men in a car. In their possession they had 41 sticks of this same type of dynamite."

After Minard's death when Swanson searched Mondo we Langa's house, police officer Marvin McClarty suspicioned Swanson was planting evidence the way the search was conducted. Conflicting accounts by detectives over who found the dynamite, and where in the basement it was found, have dogged the case from the beginning. No crime scene photographs, including photos of the basement, contain dynamite. The first evidence photos in which the dynamite appears are of the trunk of a police squad car.

Was the dynamite in the squad car the nine missing sticks described in Platner's testimony?

New Trial Reason Eight: Conflicting police testimony about search warrant--James Perry

Lieutenant James Perry of the Omaha Police Department supervised searches of Black Panther headquarters and residences during the search for Larry Minard's killers. Perry's lack of credibility was not known to jurors at the murder trial but did not escape U.S. District Court Judge Warren Urbom who ordered a new trial for Mondo we Langa over the search of his residence. A legal maneuver by the United States Supreme Court shifting appellate responsibility to state courts prevented the new trial from happening but Urbom's assessment of Perry's credibility stands.

"Lt. Perry's testimony that Delia Peak told him that Duane Peak, Edward Poindexter and David Rice [Mondo we Langa] were constant companions is in no way corroborated by the remainder of the record before me. The police report of her interview reveals nothing about Duane Peak's being a constant companion of David Rice's, and the rights advisory form she signed indicates that only Sgt. R. Alsager and Richard Curd were present for her interview. Moreover, her interview did not begin until the very hour police first approached David Rice's house and was not completed until after the decision had been made to enter his house. The police report of her interview also reveals she had seen Duane Peak at about 5:00 p.m. the night before. Thus, it simply is not so that Duane Peak's family had not seen him in the two days before they had entered the petitioner's house and is persuasive that Delia Peak's family did not make a contrary statement. Finally, there is no indication in the police reports of interviews with Duane Peak's family prior to the entry of Rice's house that they were concerned that he might have been eliminated. On the basis of the entire record before this court and having heard and seen Lt. Perry testify, it is impossible for me to credit his testimony in the respects mentioned."

Perry also claimed that Donald Peak had implicated Mondo we Langa, an allegation that Judge Urbom flatly rejected. "Had Donald Peak, Jr. so implicated David Rice, surely a similar arrest warrant for him would have been issued at that time. Given these facts I simply cannot credit this testimony of Lt. Perry."

Perry talked with a British film crew in the 1980's and discussed the case. "He [Mondo we Langa] was very free about what he thought the answers to these problems were and they generally included killing police officers. Ed Poindexter, not as vocal, was always present, always around….Well there wasn't a policeman on the job who didn't know who done that. It was just a matter of being able to prove it. And that is what we done."

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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