President Barack Obama, a former law school professor, is no doubt familiar with the Supreme Court decision Stone v. Powell, which restricted access to the federal courts by state prisoners. Obama may not have realized that Mondo we Langa, then David Rice, was part of that controversial Supreme Court decision in his own consolidated case, Nebraska v. Rice.
Mondo we Langa, a target of local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and agents of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division, was convicted for a 1970 bombing murder of an Omaha policeman. Mondo’s trial was marred by withheld FBI Laboratory evidence, apparently tampered ATF evidence, conflicting police testimony, defense attorney incompetence, and allegations of a sleeping juror. Although prosecutors pushed through a life sentence, the jury spared Mondo the electric chair which was a penalty Mondo faced.
Mondo’s case has ultimately proved to be a prima facia example of why Stone v. Powell was a bad decision. The idea was, even though Mondo won in U. S. District Court and before the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, that Mondo would get a fair enough examination of his constitutional claims of illegal search in Nebraska courts. However, when Mondo returned to the Nebraska Supreme Court he was told he ran out of time while in the federal courts. The Nebraska Supreme Court refused to consider the merits of Mondo’s case. Mondo ended up with a lifetime in prison despite four federal judges ordering his release or retrial. Mondo’s most recent appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court was dismissed without even a decision despite issues of COINTELPRO manipulation of trial evidence, the sufficiency of an innocence plea, and a constitutional challenge to the Nebraska Board of Pardons.