Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mondo we Langa seeks full review by 8th Circuit of his COINTELPRO-tainted trial

Nov. 25, 2010 by Michael Richardson

Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) has asked for a en banc hearing before the full panel of Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judges on his 1971 murder conviction. Mondo, a leader of the Omaha Black Panthers, was convicted along with Edward Poindexter, head of the Omaha chapter known as the National Committee to Combat Fascism.

The two Panther leaders, now known as the Omaha Two, were charged with the 1970 bombing murder of Larry Minard, an Omaha police officer. Minard had been lured to an ambush by an anonymous 911 caller. The men were also targets of J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and his clandestine Operation COINTELPRO.

The day of Minard’s death, Paul Young, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Omaha FBI office, and Glen Gates, Deputy Chief of Police, conspired to withhold the 911 tape recording to allow for a prosecution of the Panther leaders. Hoover wanted the two Panthers charged with Minard’s murder and ordered Ivan Willard Conrad, head of the FBI crime laboratory, to withhold an analysis of the identify of the 911 caller. Conrad documented Hoover’s order to let Minard’s killer get away with murder on his copy of the COINTELPRO memo about the 911 tape.

The jury that convicted Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa never got to hear the voice of Minard’s killer and did not know the two men were targets of COINTELPRO dirty tricks.

In October, a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit denied Mondo’s appeal seeking a new trial with a one sentence order leading to his request for the full panel of judges.

Mondo we Langa’s case is at the confluence of judicial activism by Chief Justice Warren Burger and COINTELPRO abuses under J. Edgar Hoover. Burger decided to use Mondo’s case to roll back the “Warren Court” era and deprive prisoners of habeas corpus protection in federal courts when state courts are available..

The Eighth Circuit ordered a new trial for Mondo back in the 1970’s, upholding a U.S. District Court order for a new trial because of an unconstitutional search of Mondo’s house where police purportedly found dynamite. However, the two federal court orders for a new trial were later denied by the U.S. Supreme Court in the consolidated case of Stone v. Powell

Time magazine called the case “important” and described the jockeying of the justices in the campaign over rights of criminal defendants. Authors Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong discuss the case and the role of the Chief Justice in their book, The Brethren.

“To Burger, these seemed perfect cases: two murderers trying to overturn their convictions by raising technical Fourth Amendment claims. After the highest state courts had rejected their claims, the men had appealed to the federal courts. Under the Constitution, any state prisoner has the right to petition the federal courts for a writ of habeas corpus, which required the state to show that the imprisonment did not violate the federal Constitution.”

“Burger had long wanted to cut off habeas petitions on Fourth Amendment claims. He believed they were almost always frivolous, and they clogged the federal courts. To preclude such petitions--and to overrule an important Warren Court precedent--would be a major victory.”

The Supreme Court refused to hear the merits of Mondo’s case and returned the matter to Nebraska where the outcome was already foreshadowed.

Mondo we Langa and Ed Poindexter, in their 40th year of imprisonment, continue to deny any involvement in the crime and both men remain confined at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary.

Permission granted to reprint

For further information on Mondo’s appeal :

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