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COINTELPRO prosecution of Black Panthers haunts Nebraska justice system while policeman's killers go free

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October 14, 1970, the third day of deceit, would again find Captain Platner in a Congressional committee room but this time under oath and testifying, falsely, about the source of the dynamite that killed his fellow officer.  Despite Peak's repeated assertions that Raleigh House, the man with the get-out-of-jail-free card, supplied him with the dynamite and testimony against House several weeks earlier at his preliminary hearing, Platner boldly made a sworn false statement to the committee about the explosives to name Mondo we Langa instead of House.

 

"Duane Peak, a16-yearold boy who was arrested, testified in a preliminary hearing.  It is from this preliminary hearing you are bound over to the district court to stand trial.  In the preliminary hearing he testified that David Rice [Mondo we Langa] brought a suitcase filled with dynamite to his house or to somebody's house, I'm not for sure just which place; that they removed all the dynamite from the suitcase except three sticks, made the bomb, the triggering device, and so on, and put it together; and then packed the suitcase with newspapers and that he left with this suitcase."

 

 But Platner was not the only member of the Omaha Police Department that would give false sworn testimony in the case.  The questioning of the killer's family and Delia Peak, simultaneous with the police search of Langa's house, led to Lieutenant James Perry's false testimony in court to justify the search.  U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom best tells the story of Lt. Perry's false sworn statements.

 

"Lt. Perry's testimony that Delia Peak told him that Duane Peak, Edward Poindexter and David Rice 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 has been made to enter his house.  The police report of her interview also reveals that 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 petitioners 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."

 

Sergeant Jack Swanson testified at the murder trial that he went down to the basement and found the dynamite.  Sergeant Robert Pheffer backed up Swanson saying he first saw the dynamite when Swanson carried it upstairs.  Pheffer testified he never went down in the basement.

 

At an Omaha court hearing in May 2007 in Poindexter's bid for a new trial, Pheffer testified that his trial testimony was not correct and that he, not Swanson found the dynamite.  The dynamite was never seen in the basement by anyone else and only first appears in an evidence photo pictured in the trunk of a police squad car.  Robert Bartle, Poindexter's attorney describes the contradictory testimony in an appeal brief to the Nebraska Supreme Court where the case is now pending.

 

"At Poindexter's trial, Sgt. Swanson testified that he found dynamite in Rice's basement at 2816 Parker and that Sgt. Pheffer was also in the basement when Swanson found it.  Contrary to Swanson's trial testimony, Pfeffer testified at trial that he (Pheffer) never went down into Rice's basement and that he (Pheffer) first saw the dynamite found by Swanson when Swanson carried it up from Rice's basement.  At Poindexter's post-conviction hearing on may 30, 2007, Pheffer's testimony about finding the dynamite in Rice's basement was significantly different from his sworn trial testimony 36 years earlier.  On May 30, 2007, Pheffer testified that he was the one who found the dynamite in Rice's basement at 2816 Parker on August 22 , 1970.  Pheffer claimed that Swanson was right behind him and that when Pheffer saw the dynamite, he became scared and told Swanson that they needed to 'get the heck out of here.'  When confronted with the discrepancy between Pheffer's sworn trial testimony in 1971 and his recent testimony of actually being the officer who found the dynamite, Pheffer swore that this trial testimony in 1971 was not correct, that 'the court reporter, somebody got it wrong.'"

 

The unknown man who made the fatal call that lured Larry Minard to his untimely and tragic death was dropped from the case following the three days of deceit in October 1970 because his existence interfered with the story told by killer Duane Peak and further investigation would only undermine the state's case against Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, the COINTELPRO targets.  Raleigh House, the supplier of the dynamite did one night in jail before being released on his own recognizance.  Peak, the confessed bomber served 33 months of juvenile detention and was released

 

Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa are serving life sentences at the maximum security Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.  Both men deny any involvement in Larry Minard's murder.  The Nebraska Supreme Court is reviewing Poindexter's request for a new trial.  No date has been set for a decision sometime this fall.

 This article is featured in the third issue of Abu-Jamal News (to be released July 4th) published by the media-activist group Journalists for Mumia Abu-Jamal whose website is Abu-Jamal-News.com   Permission granted to reprint. 

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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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