Douglas County prosecutor can look for new evidence in his office files in Edward Poindexter case

Ed then and now
Edward Poindexter, a Black Panther leader in Omaha, nears a half-century behind bars for a murder he says he did not commit. (credits: Omaha Police Department/Mary Loan)

Don Kleine, the Douglas County Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska, has said he would reopen the Edward Poindexter case if presented new evidence. Poindexter, chairman of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, a Black Panther affiliate group, was convicted in 1971 for the bomb murder of Patrolman Larry Minard on August 17, 1970. One reason Kleine should review the files of his predecessor Donald Knowles, who prosecuted Poindexter and co-defendant David Rice, for new evidence in the case is because both men were targets of a clandestine counterintelligence operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation code-named COINTELPRO.

Kleine was hired by Knowles but did not work as a prosecutor at the time of the Minard murder trial. Duane Peak, the confessed teen bomber, was Knowles’ star witness and made a deal that kept him out of prison. Although Knowles trusted Peak enough to seek the electric chair for Poindexter and Rice, who Peak said put him up to the crime, he did not follow Peak’s testimony about the supplier of the suitcase and stolen dynamite. Peak claimed that Raleigh House, an officer in the NCCF, provided both the suitcase and explosives used to kill Minard.

During a week-long police dragnet in Omaha after the bombing, sixty black residents were arrested on a variety of suspicion charges and minor infractions and most spent several days in jail. Raleigh House was only held overnight and then released by Deputy County Attorney Arthur O’Leary on a signature bond, suggesting that House was somebody’s informant. The Near-Northside was laced with informers for the Omaha Police Department intelligence unit, paid informants of the FBI, and informants for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division.

House testified for the defense at the April 1971 murder trial and was given hands-off treatment during cross-examination by Knowles. If House was a FBI informant he may have also been a provocateur saboteur under COINTELPRO direction putting in motion the deadly ambush bombing. Informants were known to commit crimes with FBI knowledge. It was no holds barred against the Black Panthers under FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Arthur O’Leary, who infamously told Duane Peak the truth did not matter during a recorded interrogation, let House enjoy a get-out-of-jail card while Knowles soft-balled House on the witness stand. Both men would have known who House was working for if he was indeed an informant and there may be existing files that document the matter Arthur O’Leary testified in post-trial proceedings that his personal files on the case filled a four-drawer filing cabinet. Knowles admitted to holding a large box of files in his office closet.

At the time of the trial Knowles did not know about COINTELPRO manipulation in the case and did not entertain the idea of intentional wrongful conviction, one of the FBI modus operandi of COINTELPRO operations. If House had instigated the crime while prosecutors looked the other way with FBI encouragement, the possibility of wrongful conviction needs to be considered by Kleine.

Only Kleine has access to the old files of his boss and thus if any new evidence is to be found out about Raleigh House and the murder of Larry Minard it must be Kleine who makes the discovery. House’s name wanders in and out of the story beginning in October 1969 when he authored the feature article of the By Any Means newsletter and promised to “serve the people of this community in every manner to bring about the self-determination and liberation of black people.”

House showed up again in December 1969 when he was hauled in with both Poindexter and Rice and three others to testify to a federal grand jury about the Vivian Strong Liberation School. The Omaha World-Herald called House a “onetime Panther lieutenant in Omaha.”

After the bombing, Raleigh House made it on the police intelligence unit’s list of thirty-eight suspects wanted for questioning. House was arrested and held one night before being released by prosecutor Arthur O’Leary. Jailers listened in on House’s one phone call from jail.

HOUSE asked the female party if she would call Oakland and get some of the RANGERS out here, and she replied, yes she would. HOUSE then said, “you can call You Know Who, in Chicago, and get some of them too. The female voice then replied O.K. HOUSE then told the female voice to get in touch with Huey Newton, and she replied, well he is in New Hampton now and I don’t think it would do any good. HOUSE then told the female voice to call a party by the name of HILLIARD, in Kansas City, and get him up here, and the female voice replied O.K.”

HOUSE then told the female voice that she should contact the Black Panther Mamma, who would carry on while he was in jail.”

Raleigh House surfaced again in Omaha police testimony to a U.S. House Committee on Internal Affairs subcommittee in October 1970. Captain Murdock Platner was asked if he knew of House by Representative William Scherle of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Platner replied affirmatively.

Yes, sir; he is the treasurer, the original treasurer of the Black Panther Party, and he is the minister of finance in this National Committee to Combat Fascism at this time.” Platner failed to mention that Duane Peak had identified House as the supplier of the dynamite and suitcase for the bomb that killed a policeman.

Raleigh House also showed up on a twenty-two member list of bombing suspects compiled by the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division. Although the Omaha ATF office wanted federal prosecution the United States Attorney, Richard Dier, declined to prosecute anyone.

Finally, House testified at the trial that sent Ed Poindexter and David Rice to prison for life. Curiously, House escaped serious questioning by the prosecution during cross-examination. The only question House was asked about the bomb was from defense lawyer Thomas Kenney, who merely asked if House remembered giving a suitcase to Duane Peak, to which House said, “No.”

House said after his arrest his hands were not tested for traces of dynamite. The decision to not test House’s hands, a critical decision, may be recorded in files hidden in the depths of Knowles files on the case.

If Don Kleine cannot explain why Raleigh House was not charged for supplying the bomb-making supplies that killed Minard then he should do a little snooping for new evidence in the old files. The FBI was actively engaged in COINTELPRO actions against both Poindexter and Rice at the time of the murder investigation, Kleine should not ignore that reality.

Ed Poindexter and David Rice were convicted and sentenced to life without parole. Rice changed his name in prison to Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa and died March 2016 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Poindexter, in poor health, remains imprisoned at the maximum-security prison where he continues to proclaim his innocence.

This article contains excerpts from FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.

Author: richardsonreports

Author of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two Story.

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