9 November 2007

Nebraska Court Ruling Against Imprisoned Black Militant

Free Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa!

Class-war prisoner Ed Poindexter suffered a further blow to his fight for freedom on September 10 when Douglas County, Nebraska, District Judge Russell Bowie rejected his request for a new trial. This ruling flew in the face of new evidence proving that key witnesses perjured themselves at the 1971 trial in which Poindexter and his co-defendant Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, then known as David Rice, were convicted of murder and sentenced to life. Black Panther Party supporters and former leaders of the Omaha National Committee to Combat Fascism, Poindexter and Mondo were framed up as part of the Feds’ notorious Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).

After a cop was killed by a bomb explosion in a vacant house in August 1970, Omaha police rounded up dozens of black people in a racist dragnet. Duane Peak, a scared 15-year-old, confessed to placing the bomb. After initially stating he acted alone, Peak was threatened with the death sentence and offered a deal in which he would be sentenced as a juvenile in exchange for helping to frame up Mondo and Poindexter. Although Peak named four others as well, the prosecuting attorney, Art O’Leary, said he was only interested in Mondo and Poindexter.

At trial, Peak testified that it was he who made the 911 call to lure cops to the abandoned building. But in the hearing before Judge Bowie held this May, vocal analyst Tom Owen testified that after studying a taped copy of the long-suppressed emergency call, he confirmed that Peak could not have made that phone call. The suppression of this tape is no accident. A 1970 FBI memorandum made available through the Freedom of Information Act records a warning by the Omaha Assistant Chief of Police that use of the tapes “might be prejudicial” to the trial of Poindexter and Rice.

Though Peak’s clearly coerced testimony was shown to be bogus, Judge Bowie ruled that the 911 call constituted “but one part of the evidence against the defendant.” The other “evidence,” cop testimony that dynamite was recovered from Mondo’s basement, was equally specious. Jack Swanson, the Omaha PD Intelligence Division liaison with the FBI, testified at trial that he found the dynamite in a coal bin but changed his story in a 1974 federal appeal hearing to say he saw it by the furnace. In the hearing before Judge Bowie, another cop who backed up Swanson’s trial story now claimed that he, not Swanson, discovered the dynamite. Police photos of the basement show no dynamite, which first appeared in a photo of the trunk of a police cruiser. Bowie ruled these contradictions in sworn police testimony “immaterial.”

The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief detailing COINTELPRO surveillance, disruption, frame-up and terror. The brief documents frame-ups against Black Panthers such as Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) in Los Angeles, who spent 27 years in prison for a crime the LAPD and Feds knew he did not commit, and Dhoruba bin Wahad in New York, who spent two decades in prison based on falsified evidence. In a 1990 BBC documentary about the Nebraska case, Jack Swanson boasted that as a result of the arrests of Poindexter and Mondo the Black Panther Party “completely disappeared from the city of Omaha.” Thirty-eight Panthers were killed by the Feds and cops. Hundreds more were framed up and locked away, foremost among them Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was falsely convicted of the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sent to death row.

Despite their nearly four decades of imprisonment, Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa remain unbowed. Poindexter has earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is recognized as a caring mentor for fellow prisoners. Mondo, a celebrated playwright, author and artist, has recently published a collection of poems and raps titled “The Black Panther Is an African Cat.” In a prison interview two days before the decision against Poindexter, Mondo was quoted as saying that 37 long years behind bars gave him “low expectations” about a favorable ruling in a Nebraska courtroom.

Mondo should know. In 1974 a federal district court overturned his conviction based on the illegality of the search of his house, as did a federal appellate court a year later. But in 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the case returned to Nebraska state courts. The Nebraska Supreme Court then ruled that his appeal time had lapsed! There is no justice in the capitalist courts! Free Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa now!

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Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa are among the 16 class-war prisoners receiving stipends from the Partisan Defense Committee, which is preparing to hold its 22nd annual Holiday Appeal fundraiser in support of this program. For more information about the PDC and its class-war prisoners fund see www.partisandefense.org. You can write to Poindexter and Langa at: Ed Poindexter, 27767, 1-A-12, Nebraska State Penitentiary, Box 2500, Lincoln, NE 68542-2500; W.M.E. we Langa, 27768, Nebraska State Penitentiary, P.O. Box 2500, Lincoln, NE 68542-2500.

(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 902, 9 November 2007)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.