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Famous Like Me > Director > R > David E. Rice

Profile of David E. Rice on Famous Like Me

Name: David E. Rice  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 27th July 1971
Place of Birth: San Pedro, California, USA
Profession: Director
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Omahans David Rice (who later changed his name to Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa) and Edward Poindexter were accused and convicted of the murder of Omaha Police Officer Larry Minard, father of five, who died when a suitcase containing dynamite exploded in North Omaha on August 17, 1970. Officer John Tesh was also injured in the explosion. The two were members of the Black Panther Party, and the case was very controversial. The two are considered by some to be Nebraska's two political prisoners.

Rice and Poindexter

Mondo we Langa was born David Rice in Omaha in 1949, graduated from Creighton Preparatory School and took courses at Creighton University. He wrote for the local underground paper, Buffalo Chip, from 1969 to 1970 and was a member of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Today he is a published poet and playwright and even from jail has become major voice of the arts in Nebraska.

Ed Poindexter was born on November 1, 1944. He is a Vietnam veteran. He too has published plays, and has also published various materials educating and motivating prison inmates who are near release.

Context of the Events in the summer of 1970

In the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. racial tensions in inner-cities accross America were high. In March of 1968, riots in Omaha led to the shooting of a local high school student during an event in support of segregationist George Wallace's presidential campaign. In the summer of 1970, there was a rash of bombings in the midwest. Five bombings had occured in neighboring Iowa, explosions occured in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and both a police precinct and the Component Concept Corporation suffered bomb damage in Omaha. Members of the Black Panther Party was the prime suspects in these bombings. In July, a warrent was issued to search Omaha BPP headquarters for bomb making materials, and ex-BPP member Luther Payne was arrested in Omaha for possessing dynamite.

August 17

A call was made to the police reporting a probable rape at a vacant house near 28th and Ohio Street. Patrolmen Michael Lamson, and five other members of the Omaha Police Department (OPD) responded to the initial call. They noticed a suitcase sitting in the ajar front door. Shortly afterward, Patrolmen Larry Minard and John Tess arrived. With Tess looking on, Minard approached the suitcase, killing himself and seriously injuring Tess.

Duane Peak

After hiding out for over a week, Duane Peak was arrested in conjunction with the crim on August 28. He confessed to placing the bag, and implicated six others, but mentioned neither Rice nor Poindexter. In a later statement, Peak told police that Rice and Poindexter had made the bomb and told him to plant it, and lure the police to the vacant house with an anonymous phone call.

This led to the charge of Poindexter and Rice of murder on August 31.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Janurary 8, 1978, County Prosecutor Art O'Leary addmitted that he had made a deal with Duane Peak to prosecute him as a juvenile in return for his testimony. O'Leary acknowledged that without Peak's testimony, the pair would not have been convicted.

The Trial

Preliminary Hearing

At a preliminary hearing on September 28, Peak took the stand and recanted his story, testifying instead that neither Poindexter nor Rice were involved. After a recess, Peak changed his testimony yet again and implicated Poindexter and Rice. Peak was at that time wearing dark glasses, which he removed at the request of Rice's attorney, David Herzog. Herzog asked Peak if he had been threatened during the recess, and if he had discussed his confession to help him remember it. Peak replied in the affirmative to both questions, telling the court that his lawyer was not present when he discussed his confession with county attorney O'Leary.

April 1971 Trial

Poindexter and Rice were tried in Douglas County District Court by a jury of eleven whites and one Black. Deliberations lasted four days, before both men were found guilty. Judge Donald A. Hamilton sentenced them to life in prison. The black Jury member later admitted that he accepted the guilt of the pair on the condition that the death sentence was not asked for.

Controversey over Evidence

In addition to Peak's testimony, the state offered three pieces of dynamite found in Rice's home as evidence. The officers could not find Rice or Poindexters fingerprints on the dynamite, and were not clear as to the exact location of the dynamite in Rice's house. Accusations have been made that the dynamite was plainted, suspicions which were even held by ex-police officer Marvin McClarty. However, shortly after his conviction, Rice's house burned to the ground, eliminating any possibility of exploring the accuracy of police testimony about the dynamite.

Luther Payne and his associates were not discussed in the procedings of the trial, and after the trial, charges were dropped, although skin tests found that one of the men had recently handled dynamite. Skin tests for Rice and Poindexter were negative. Peak was not tested.

Circumstantial Evidence

The state also brougt forward as evedence inflammatory literature the two men had written. These articles were among many published around that time by various political groups in the context of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Former Nebraska Governor Frank Morrison, who had represented Poindexter at his trial, is quoted: "The reason they were suspected was because they were members of the Black Panthers. [Authorities] had a couple of young Blacks who everybody knew used incendiary language -- hateful things that irritated the police. They weren't convicted of murder. They were convicted of rhetoric. The only thing these young fellas did was try to combat all the racial discrimination of the time the wrong way."

In a 1990 BBC documentary about this case, the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Jack Swanson, affirmed the fear of the OPD for the BPP: "We feel we got the two main players in Rice and Poindexter, and I think we did the right thing at the time, because the Black Panther Party ... completely disappeared from the city of Omaha ... and it's ... been the end of that sort of thing in the city of Omaha -- and that's 21 years ago."


At David Rice's appeal in March 1974, Judge Warren Urbom of the Federal District Court found that the police had no evidence to allow a search of his home, where they had allegedly found the dynamite. Judge Urbom also noted the inconsistencies in a Police Lieutenant's testimony about the reasons for a search warrant, concluded "it is impossible for me to credit his testimony", and overturned Rice's conviction, ordering a new trial in which the evidence of the dynamite could not be used to corroborate the state's case. This ruling was upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1975. The State of Nebraska then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was in the process of ruling on a landmark case, Stone v. Powell (July 6, 1976), which in a decision taken together with Wolff v. Rice, the Court held that where states had provided opportunities for full and fair litigation of Fourth Amendment claims, the Constitution did not require the granting of federal habeas corpus relief. Thuse Rice had to go through state courts to decide the question of the legality of the search of his house. However, the Nebraska Supreme Court refused to hear his case on the grounds that the time limit for appealing through the state court had been exhausted.


After COINTELPRO became public in 1977, and the Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1978, Rice and Poindexter were able to access their FBI files, which were each over a thousand pages long, although they only recieved small portions upon request. In 1978 Amnesty International published a report finding that irregular conduct by the FBI during its COINTELPRO operations had undermined the fairness of trials of a number of political activists during the 1970's. This led to the 1980 conviction (and 1981 pardon by Reagan) of FBI Director L. Patrick Gray and Edward S. Miller. However, beyond the general campaign to discredit and smear BPP member, the particular links between COINTELPRO and this case are uncertain.

Commuting Sentences

Since 1993, the Nebraska Parole Board has voted unanimously and repeatedly to commute both men's sentences to time served. However, as of September 2005, the Nebraska Board of Pardons has refused to schedule a hearing in the matter. One Board member has even asserted that there are "no circumstances" under which he would consider commutation.

Cause célèbre

Mondo we Langa and Ed Poindexter have become folk heros of a sort, along with the likes of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier. These men are often called political prisoners, as their arrests and convictions were marred by circumatiancial evidence and police mistakes, and occured in a time of intense political turmoil. Controversial Omaha police officer, Tariq Al-Amin, has led the charge for the freedom of we Langa and Poindexter in Omaha, while Amnesty International and the NAACP are among the national orginazations which support the release of the two men.


  • Nebraska's Two Political Prisoners - []
  • A Political Prisoner Speaks: "From on African to Another" by Mondo we Langa []

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article David E. Rice