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General News    H3'ed 3/5/09

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

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Ed Poindexter 

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. 

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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer living in Belize. Richardson writes about Taiwan foreign policy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Black Panther Party. Richardson was Ralph Nader's ballot access manager during the 2004 and (more...)

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