The campaign to obtain freedom for former Black Panther leader Edward Poindexter is gaining growing support as evidenced by a new billboard near Interstate 480 in Omaha, Nebraska, calling for his freedom. Poindexter has been imprisoned since 1970 for the bombing murder of an Omaha policeman following a controversial trial marred by withheld evidence, apparent planted evidence, conflicting police testimony, questionable forensic evidence, and perjured testimony by the state’s chief witness, Duane Peak, the confessed bomber.
Poindexter, sentenced to life at hard labor at the close of the April 1971 trial, has survived co-defendant David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa) who died at the maximum security Nebraska State Penitentiary in March 2016 while serving his life sentence. The two prisoners were leaders of a Black Panther Party affiliate chapter called the National Committee to Combat Fascism and targets of a clandestine counterintelligence operation code-named COINTELPRO conducted illegally by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Preston Love, Jr. is a member of the Freedom for Ed Committee that has held a prayer vigil, a march, and a demonstration outside the home of Governor Pete Ricketts. Love, who chairs the organization Black Votes Matter, is firmly convinced Poindexter was a victim of a wrongful conviction. Over the years, Freedom of Information lawsuits have slowly uncovered secret federal manipulation of the murder investigation and subsequent criminal trial. However, despite the revelations, Poindexter has not been granted a new trial.
Many, including a national justice group, have called Poindexter a political prisoner because of the COINTELPRO subterfuge and subsequent unfair courtroom injustice that has kept him imprisoned for half a century. The funds for the billboard were provided in a grant from the Jericho Movement to Free All Political Prisoners. Jericho Boston helped defray the billboard costs.
Denied a new trial by the courts, Poindexter is getting similar treatment from the Nebraska Pardon Board, made up of the Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State. The three politicians control Poindexter’s fate as they determine sentence commutations. Until the trio acts, the Nebraska Parole Board cannot take up Poindexter’s case.
Not only has the Pardon Board thus far declined to consider Poindexter’ request for a commutation of sentence, they insist he must continue to wait for a hearing. Despite Poindexter’s age, 76, and ailing health, the Pardon Board refuses to hear his case while they work on pardons for persons no longer in jail.
In a stunning display of disregard for the numerous calls throughout the country to reduce prison populations as the Covid virus runs rampant behind bars, the Nebraska Parole Board refuses to consider commutation requests ahead of pardons for those who have already served their sentence. The board has approximately fifty pending commutation requests yet only hears a half-dozen cases every several months. Instead, the majority of cases that appear before the board are for pardons from ex-convicts who have already been released from the prison risk of infection. The board also refuses to triage the commutation requests to put elderly or at risk prisoners on an expedited schedule.
Ricketts and his two political colleagues have failed Good Government 101. The best place to start on any reduction of the number of confined inmates would be with those seeking commutation. Their cases are already prepared for consideration and would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Preston Love explains the reason for the billboard. “It is time for the public to realize that Ed Poindexter is real and is vulnerable to forces beyond his control, just like the rest of us. His humanness, his face, his life. We hope this billboard will close the gap for many to speak out for Ed and help get the State’s knee off his throat, let him breathe”
More information on Ed Poindexter is available in the book FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and in ebook format. Portions of the book may also be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.