At a conference in Omaha, Nebraska, in August, an all-star panel of scholars and activists announced concurrent efforts to gain freedom for Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice). The two men have been jailed since August 1970 for the bombing murder of an Omaha policeman.
The gathering was held at the Malcolm X Memorial Center but was largely ignored by local news media. However, the San Francisco Bay View published an account of the conference where several different strategies to obtain the release from prison for the two former Black Panther leaders were announced.
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa were convicted in April 1971 for the murder of Larry Minard, Sr. who was killed by a booby-trap bomb in a vacant house. Officer Minard was answering a 911 call about a woman screaming but only found a suitcase full of dynamite. The two Panther leaders were targets of J. Edgar Hoover’s illegal counterintelligence war on the Black Panthers, code-named COINTELPRO. Hoover gave a secret order to withhold a FBI Laboratory report on the identity of the 911 caller who lured Minard to his death. Instead of seeking Minard’s killer, Hoover wanted Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa convicted for the crime but this was unknown until years after their trial. Serving life sentences at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary, both men continue to deny any role in Minard’s death and have repeatedly sought a new trial.
Lennox Hinds, former counsel for the African National Congress, who also teaches Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, told the audience he would be filing an affidavit in support of Mondo we Langa’s request to be heard by the Nebraska Supreme Court in a petition filed by Omaha attorney Tim Ashford. The appeal challenges the de facto life without parole sentences being served by the two prisoners. Hinds said the men are serving “illegal” sentences.
State Senator Ernie Chambers, who represents Omaha’s Near-Northside, has been a long-time supporter of the Omaha Two and was with Mondo we Langa when he turned himself in to police in 1970. Senator Chambers, who also attended the trial and other court proceedings, announced he would introduce legislation mandating parole for the Omaha Two. Although such legislation would be difficult to pass, if Chambers could get legislative hearings on the case the public would likely be shocked at all the revelations about prosecution misconduct that have emerged over the years but never got a thorough public airing.
Charles E. Jones was the keynote speaker at the Malcolm X Memorial Center event. Jones is University of Cincinnati professor of Africana Studies and editor of The Black Panther Party Reconsidered, who spoke of government and police efforts to crush and exterminate the Black Panthers “across the country and here in Omaha.” Professor Jones is presently working on a book about the Omaha Two case to be titled Forgotten Comrades.
In 1975, U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom, and later a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, ordered a new trial for Mondo we Langa. However, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the merits of Mondo’s appeal and sent the case back to the Nebraska Supreme Court on procedural grounds during Chief Justice Warren Burger’s effort to undo rulings of his predecessor, Earl Warren. The Nebraska Supreme Court denied a new trial request despite the rulings of the four federal judges.
Former Nebraska Governor Frank Morrison, who defended Ed Poindexter at trial, made a public apology to Poindexter in 1994 for failing to adequately defend his client. Morrison said both he and the system let Ed Poindexter down.
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