Angela Davis says 'Omaha Two' are victims of 'repressive authorities" in 1971 COINTELPRO case and should be freed
Angela Davis, noted University of California professor and political prisoner advocate, travelled to Lincoln, Nebraska to tell a crowd of 300 justice, civil rights and peace advocates that the 'Omaha Two' were victims of "repressive authorities" and should be released from prison. Davis was talking about Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) who are serving life sentences in the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary.
Poindexter and Langa were convicted in 1971 for the bombing murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard after being implicated by the 15 year-old confessed bomber, Duane Peak. At the time, the two leaders of Omaha's Black Panther chapter, called the Nebraska Committee to Combat Fascism, were targets of a clandestine operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation code-named COINTELPRO.
Years after the conviction of the two men when the secret FBI files of COINTELPRO became available by Freedom of Information requests it was discovered that even before the murdered policeman was buried, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had given the order to withhold evidence about the unknown caller who lured Minard to his death. Hoover wanted a case made against Poindexter and Langa regardless of what the crime laboratory reported.
Hoover's shocking command to suppress identification of Minard's killer was recorded by FBI Crime Laboratory chief Ivan Willard Conrad. The Omaha FBI Special-Agent-in-Charge sent a memo to Conrad recommending an informal, unwritten lab report on the tape recording of the fatal call. The Omaha Police wanted to identify the caller through vocal analysis of the tape but did not want to release results of the forensic examination to lawyers for Poindexter and Langa. Conrad spoke with Hoover after getting the unusual request to withhold evidence.
The FBI Crime Lab chief scrawled on his copy of the Omaha memo that Hoover approved of the request to not prepare a formal laboratory report on the crucial tape recording. "Dir advised telephonically & said OK to do." Conrad then initialed and dated the memo entry just two days after the bombing.
Omaha Asst. Chief of Police Glen W. Gates later had another memo sent to Hoover by way of the Omaha FBI office asking that no use of the tape be made because it might be "prejudicial to the police murder trial" of Poindexter and Langa. Peak claimed he made the call and placed the bomb under orders from Poindexter, however, the voice on the tape was not that of a 15 year-old but rather an older man thus leaving an unidentified accomplice on the loose and a gaping hole in the prosecution's case against the two Panther leaders.
Conrad followed Hoover's orders and kept quiet about the tape recording. The defense was never provided the tape at trial and the jurors that convicted Poindexter and Langa never got to hear the voice of the actual killer. Peak received a deal from prosecutors and got off with several years of juvenile detention while the two activists were sentenced to life in prison. Both men deny any involvement in Minard's death.
Angela Davis is no stranger to COINTELPRO tactics against the Black Panthers and herself was once a fugitive on the FBI 'Ten Most Wanted' list. Serving 18 months behind bars before being acquitted of participation in a California police-Panther shootout, Davis is sympathetic with targets of COINTELPRO prosecutions. Davis was cleared of her case just the year after Poindexter and Langa were convicted and has followed the Nebraska case ever since.
In 1975, Davis made a trip to Lincoln to raise money for a legal defense fund and attended a post-conviction court hearing. In 1982, she led a rally at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and declared, "We are going to continue to fight until they are both free."
Since 2000, Davis has made three trips to Nebraska to advocate for release of Poindexter and Langa and told the Lincoln Star during a 2006 visit, "It is important for people to understand the way in which two men could basically be framed up and kept in prison for 36 years even though they're innocent."
Davis more recently told an enthusiastic audience hosted by Nebraskans for Justice that "the revolution didn't come" and that activists ensnared by COINTELPRO remain imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
"Our memories aren't as strong as those of the repressive authorities who still hold captive people of that era who fought to end racism, overthrow capitalism and to build a better world for all of us."
Poindexter has a new trial request pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court. Oral argument in the case is scheduled for October but no date for a decision has been set. Poindexter is seeking a new trial based on conflicting police testimony and withheld evidence.
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