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 One: The 911 call that lured police into a lethal trap
It was a hot summer night when the call came in. A deep male voice said a woman was screaming at a vacant house on Ohio street. The police dispatcher sent several two-man cars to investigate. As eight officers fanned out to search the house and yard one of them stooped to check out a suitcase near a doorway. The blast killed 29 year-old Larry Minard instantly.
While an intense investigation ensued, the single-most important piece of evidence was the 911 recording of the killer's voice that lured police into the lethal trap. The FBI immediately offered to analyze the tape recording to attempt an identification of the killer by comparison of voice samples--under certain conditions. Neither the FBI nor Assistant Chief of Police Glen W. Gates wanted the results made public.
The Omaha World-Herald quoted, in a front-page story 'Voiceprint in Bombing to FBI Lab', acting-Chief of Police Walter J. Devere that the recording would be a good investigative tool. What Devere didn't know or was withholding from the public was the truth of the matter--the recording was not to be used to find the killer.
The very day of the bombing, the recording was sent to Washington, D.C. for analysis at the FBI Crime Laboratory. However, a request was made from Omaha to issue no lab report on the results. When FBI Crime Laboratory director Ivan Willard Conrad got the unusual request he talked with J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, and was told to withhold a report on the recording. Conrad scrawled on the memo, "Dir advised telephonically & said OK to do." Conrad then initialed and dated the memo entry, two days after Minard's death. The clandestine memo ended the search for truth in the case.
On October 13, 1970, the Omaha FBI office updated Hoover on the status of the deception. "Asst. COP GLENN GATES, Omaha PD, advised that he feels that any uses of this call might be prejudicial to the police murder trial against two accomplices of PEAK and, therefore, has advised that he wishes no use of this tape until after the murder trials of Peak and the two accomplices has been completed."
The FBI memo continued, "[N]o further efforts are being made at this time to secure additional tape recordings of the original telephone call.
The jury that would later convict Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa never knew of Hoover's secret order to withhold evidence and never got to hear the recording of the killer's voice. Officials destroyed the recording after the trial.
If it wasn't the two Panther leaders on the recording, whose voice was it?
New Trial Reason Two: The confessions and recantations of 15 year-old Duane Peak
Duane Peak, a 15 year-old, confessed to planting the bomb that killed Minard and also said he made the phone call as well. Peak actually gave a half-dozen statements to police both denying his involvement and implicating others. While being questioned in custody by assistant county prosecutor Arthur O'Leary, the youth was told the truth did not matter.
"As a practical matter, it doesn't make any difference what the truth is concerning you at all."
"You realize now that it doesn't make any difference whether you did or didn't. That doesn't really make one bit of difference at all at this stage of the game."