Edward Poindexter and Michael Richardson in 2016 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary
(Image by Michael Richardson) Permission Details DMCA
When I began researching the August 17, 1970 bombing murder of Omaha policeman Larry Minard for a book, that would take me ten years to write, I did not know Edward Poindexter and was unsure of his guilt or innocence despite attending his 1971 trial. Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa (then David Rice) were put on trial for their lives for the death of Minard, implicated by the confessed bomber, fifteen year-old Duane Peak. In exchange for his testimony Peak, who admitted laughing about Minard's death, never spent a day in prison.
After a decade I finally finished the book, FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, and can pursue efforts to help gain freedom for Poindexter, who I now believe innocent of the crime. Poindexter was head of Omaha's Black Panther affiliate group the National Committee to Combat Fascism and was a target of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's clandestine, and illegal, counterintelligence program code-named COINTELPRO.
My purpose in writing the book was to make a record of what happened. The story, until now, has never been told in full, in the context of its time and place. Much of the story only came out years after the murder. In writing the book I followed the advice of Mondo to follow the truth. What I came to learn is that both men were innocent and prosecuted for murder because of their political beliefs.
The Minard murder trial was not a search for truth, the outcome was fixed. The trial was marred by contradictory police testimony about discovery of dynamite; withheld exculpatory evidence, the 911 recording of a killer's voice; and planted evidence, dynamite where it doesn't belong.
I didn't meet Ed Poindexter until my second or third trip to the prison to interview Mondo. I had known Mondo before his arrest but never knew Poindexter. I remember our first meeting in a tiny visitor room. The close quarters put me up close to him. I hadn't yet learned enough from my research into the role of the FBI and the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Division to know about Poindexter's innocence. I remember my apprehension and unease as I contemplated the horrific crime for which he was accused. As I looked into his eyes and closely studied his demeanor I began to slowly learn of Ed's dignity. Over time, as I uncovered more pieces of the story, my understanding of what had happened to Ed & Mondo deepened. The more I learned, the more I became convinced their claims of innocence were valid.
I can't rewrite my book in this article but it can be read free, in installments, at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The critical elements are the only two pieces of evidence that pointed to Poindexter's guilt. There is nothing else in the controversial two-week trial that implicated Poindexter.
Duane Peak, the teenager who made a deal with prosecutors to trade his freedom for that of Mondo and Poindexter, gave a half-dozen different versions of the crime and denied any involvement of pair at the preliminary hearing. After a court recess, when Peak was threatened with the electric chair, he changed his tune and claimed the two Panther leaders put him up to the bombing. That night, in his cell at the Dodge County Jail, Peak wrote in a letter that he "betrayed those two bloods."
The dynamite evidence used against Poindexter were some dynamite particles in his jacket pocket. Poindexter tested clean when examined for traces of explosives. The jacket, which was seized at the time of arrest, was transported to the ATF Laboratory by agent Thomas Sledge whose brother James Sledge was an Omaha policeman injured in the fatal bombing. Sledge also transported two glass vials of dynamite particles for analysis at the laboratory. Sledge had both motive and opportunity to salt the jacket with particles.
Dynamite particles were also found in Mondo's pants pocket. However, a Omaha World-Herald photo of Mondo on his way to jail with his hands jammed into his pockets proves the particles were added after the pants were taken from Mondo as his hands tested clean moments after the 1970 newspaper photo. The significance of the the photo was not noticed for over two decades later and still did not lead to a new trial.
That's it. The word of a perjuring, self-confessed bomber and dynamite particles that mysteriously appeared in a jacket pocket. There is no other evidence linking Ed Poindexter to murder.
The Omaha Two, Mondo and Poindexter, were caught in a triangular cross fire from command officers of the Omaha Police Department, the clandestine COINTELPRO operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and compromised evidence handling by at least one agent of the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Division.
Not one, not two, but there were three law enforcement conspiracies against the Omaha Two. The implausibility of three police agencies competing with misdeeds to convict has carried the day for forty-seven years since the trial. However, after studying the record, much of it revealed by the Freedom of Information Act, I understand that is indeed just what happened in Omaha.
Ed Poindexter has always said he is innocent and had nothing to do with the murder. I believe him.