August 28, 2023
From The Real News Network

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After 52 years of incarceration, Edward Alan Poindexter is among the longest-serving political prisoners in US and world history. Originally part of the “Omaha Two,” Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, both leaders of the Omaha Black Panthers, were convicted of the murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard in 1971. Poindexter and we Langa’s case has long been a subject of scrutiny, with Amnesty International recommending a retrial for both men in 1999. We Lenga passed away in 2016 after years of poor health, and now Poindexter’s family members fear he could face a similar fate unless he’s released on medical and compassionate grounds.

Studio Production: Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: Cameron Granadino


Mansa Musa:  Welcome to this edition of Rattling the Bars. I’m your host, Mansa Musa. August 21 marks the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of Comrade George L. Jackson. This episode of Rattling the Bars is being taped on August 21, 2023. 

When I came into The Real News office, the marquee read, “Free all political prisoners.” And nothing is more appropriate than our show today. Ed Poindexter and the late Mondo We Langa are two political prisoners, the Omaha Two, who were framed, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison in 1971 for the murder of Omaha police officer Larry Minard who died when a suitcase dynamite bomb exploded in a vacant house in north Omaha on August 17, 1970. Here to talk about the case of the Omaha Two are Tekla Ali Johnson, a supporter of political prisoners; Adrian Payne, Ed Poindexter’s sister; and Ericka “Rikki” Payne, Ed Poindexter’s niece. Welcome to Rattling the Bars.

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  Thank you.

Adrian Payne:  Thank you.

Tekla Johnson:  Thank you.

Mansa Musa:  Yeah, thank you. Okay, Ms. Andrea.

Adrian Payne:  It’s Adrian.

Mansa Musa:  Oh, it’s Adrian. Ms. Adrian. All right. Let’s start with you. You are Ed Poindexter’s sister.

Adrian Payne:  Yes.

Mansa Musa:  Tell us a little bit about Ed, your brother, for the benefit of our audience.

Adrian Payne:  He is a kind, wonderful brother. He was like my best friend. He always stood beside me and he was wonderful. You couldn’t say anything bad about him. As we were growing up, like I said, he was always there and we did things together. He would take me places with him. He never was like, oh, little sister, get back and all that. He was never like that.

Mansa Musa:  Yeah. Can you recall if you can, the day that they arrested him? And if you can remember, what was that like?

Adrian Payne:  Oh, it was terrible. They were standing behind the bushes and the house. They had the house surrounded. And I came out on the porch and I was with Rikki and I said don’t shoot my brother. He’s coming out. He’s not going to resist. He came on out. He came out without any recourse or anything and they took him on into the car. It was so sad.

Mansa Musa:  And that was in the ’70s. And he’s been in prison ever since?

Adrian Payne:  Yes.

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  Yeah, he’s been in prison for 53 years. I was six months old.

Mansa Musa:  Yeah. And Rikki, right now you’re involved with the defense committee in terms of trying to get Ed released. By way of this conversation, Ed’s co-defendant has since passed away. Mondo We Langa has since then passed away. What is the state of your uncle’s health at this juncture right now?

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  Actually, his health isn’t very good. He has diabetes and they amputated his leg without telling anybody. I know when me and my mom visited, they made visitations super hard. You can only go on a Wednesday at 10:00AM. And when we did go to visit him he was very confused. He was in a wheelchair and I noticed that his legs were black. So I wasn’t surprised that they amputated one but it would’ve been nice if somebody would’ve let us know. We’re really curious as to how he got in that bad state. If you’re controlling all his food and you’re controlling everything how could he get to that point where his leg gets amputated?

Mansa Musa:  I did 48 years and I’ve been out all of three years. But I know this to be a fact: When you’re dealing with mass incarceration in the prison industrial complex, the medical situation in all prisons is inadequate. I know when I got out, I got a physical. I got diagnosed, I had hepatitis C. I had gotten a knee replacement when I was locked up. When I got out they realized that they put it in there wrong and I had to get it taken out again and done over.

So in terms of your observation and your concern, it is appropriate because they’re misdiagnosing them. Or they’re not properly diagnosed to save money, this is what goes on. But in terms of what’s going on, in terms of mobilizing to get his release, where are we standing with that? What are some of the things going on around this case?

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  Actually, we have done several things. Tekla has helped Jericho with a call to action where they call the prison and demand certain things and are demanding his release. We did a walk with Preston Love Jr. And Senator Ernie Chambers spoke at that particular – Basically, we’ve been doing what we’ve been doing for over 50 years. Actually, it went dormant for a little while. We were told by my uncle because he was scared for us, that he wanted us to sit back and he was going to get out. Because my grandmother has been threatened we’re a part of the COINTELPRO program. I know that our landline was tapped. My grandmother had to agree to it but they said that as long as there was nothing said on the phone that had anything to do with my uncle, then they wouldn’t do anything. And me and my sister, when we were little, we used to pick the phone up and be like, the dead person’s in the basement. We wanted to see if the police were going to show up.

Mansa Musa:  [Laughs] Yeah.

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  We were so bad. But yeah it’s terrible. He tried to be a part of our family the whole time. We used to go see him once a week. We watched the prison change how –

Mansa Musa:  Yeah, I know how. I’m there.

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  Yeah. Yeah. My grandmother used to make him cookies. We got pictures from when we used to go see him once a week. He used to send me to really fancy summer programs. He used to pay for those. I did a dance class with this really popular dancer named Sandra McSwain at the Joplin Art Museum. I was in the newspaper because he sent me to that program one summer. So he tried to be a hands-on uncle, even from prison. I thought that was absolutely amazing.

Mansa Musa:  Yeah. And we know from experience that that’s the whole thing. To try to destroy any type of family association. That’s why you said earlier that the visitation procedures are hard. But Maya Angelou said I still rise regardless of whatever goes on. And still, I rise. And this is the case with your Uncle Ed, regardless of what’s going on with him. And still, I rise. I can understand him wanting to take a position for your protection. At the same token, in terms of the information about this case, I’m reading where the case from day one has been consistently inconsistent testimonies, and fabricated evidence. Where do we stand in terms of trying to get some judicial relief for Ed?

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  My biggest issue with that is – Okay, okay, this is me from the heart – My biggest issue is they send us to school to learn law and justice. They make us do this Pledge of Allegiance and they promise us these rights and all these things but with my uncle, none of that has been followed. He’s basically been proven innocent because the person that they said made the 911 call wasn’t the person who made the 911 call. They made us get a voice analysis person and he said that wasn’t Duane Peak on the 911 call. The judge got red as a beet and didn’t say anything. But they had promised my grandma that they would give him a new trial if they proved that that was not Duane Peak on the 911 call.

Also, in that same trial, they said that he had explosive chemicals in his pocket. It’s the same thing that’s in laundry detergent. So we had a specialist say that whatever that chemical is, it’s also found in laundry detergent. Then at that same trial, this police officer leaned over my grandma and said, you will not get out over my dead body. I don’t care what these people say. I couldn’t believe it. I told the reporter, did you hear that? Did you write that down? Did you record that? Her name was Carol Schrader. She ignored me.

Mansa Musa:  We know that from our experience and observation that J. Edgar Hoover and the COINTELPRO, counter-intelligence program, created this primarily for the purpose of completely destroying any political opposition. Anybody that had an independent thinking process. Anybody that was against the oppressive, abusive, nature of the government. They had a system where they had two ways they were going to approach them: either they’re going to kill them off or kill them by death by a thousand cuts. Death by a thousand cuts and use the criminal injustice system to lock ’em up.

Which brings me to you, Tekla. Now you’ve been involved with the case for longer than most people. Give us some background information on yourself, how you got involved with this case, and where you’re at now in terms of supporting Ed.

Tekla Johnson:  Well, my name is Tekla Ali Johnson. I currently teach African-American studies and history. But most of my work or my life has been in community organizing. And what led me to it was a relationship with Ed’s co-defendant, Mondo We Langa. I would like to go through that and a few more things about the case. But before I forget I wanted to pull out a couple of things. You asked about current things that have happened in terms of the family’s involvement. And I don’t want to miss these two being said.

Mansa Musa:  Come on now.

Tekla Johnson:  In April, both Rikki and Adrian made a statement which was a very important statement. They made it in a submission to the United Nations International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice. In other words, justices from a committee from the United Nations came to five cities around the country. And these two were able to speak to that. Efia Nwangaza helped to organize the one in Atlanta and they were able to make a presentation that was, I thought, very, very powerful about the defense. Maybe you got to see that.

But getting that to the United Nations has been so much effort to get it outside of the US: first to get it out of Nebraska, knowledge about the case. Ericka, I think you all would agree. And then to get the information national and then to get it to the United Nations. The other thing that they have been doing recently is working very hard to secure an attorney specifically to look at the medical release. They have acquired an attorney, and they’ll be meeting with him at the end of this week who has now agreed to do that.

Mansa Musa:  Okay, good.

Tekla Johnson:  So the family has been very active in this last year and in many multiple years. But you asked recently, where is it at right now? Right now, the emphasis is on securing this medical release through an additional attorney to come on board. As far as the case itself do you want me to go back through where that is?

Mansa Musa:  Yeah, yeah. We want you to because we need our audience to understand exactly what’s going on with them. When we say political prisoners oftentimes we look at it from the perspective that they politicize the individual. But this is by design, like I said, COINTELPRO had two objectives: to stop the rise of what they call a Black Messiah or anybody that could lead people. And the way they were going to deal with them was by two means: either kill them off or death by a thousand cuts. Death by a thousand cuts is to put them in the criminal justice system and then ignore all evidence of innocence. So go, yes ma’am, please.

Tekla Johnson:  So Ericka hit on some of the big major points. I’ll try to snake around there and get in a few additional details. The original situation in which Ed Poindexter and Mondo We Lango, who was then David Rice, came to join the Black Panther party was police killings in Omaha. There had already been three police killings in Omaha and they decided to join. Eddie Baldwin and some others had started a Black Panther Party chapter. It was functioning on a social level but not really meeting the service needs of the people. These brothers came in, they were serious.

They went to Des Moines, Iowa, and trained under Pete O’Neal. Pete told me that, I didn’t get that from Ed, that they came, they were very serious young brothers, and trained under him. Especially Ed would go and get the information and come and bring it back. In the course of them doing work, police patrols, a breakfast program, they had another killing. It was Vivian Strong. And I remember this. I was three. A 14-year-old girl was shot in the back of the head, in the projects, by the police. Then the brothers stepped it up and they started the Vivian Strong Liberation School. They actually did it for a time in the headquarters and for a time, they did it out of Mondo’s house.

They were pulled into a grand jury to ask them, what were you teaching in the Vivian Strong Liberation School? Which, of course, was African liberation and history. So they began to get on the radar of the FBI director and we’ve seen memos from the FBI director. Then as you know, there are other things going on around the country. There’s bombings and the white left, some of them have admitted doing some of the bombings. There’s a bombing and a police officer – There’s a 911 call that Rikki was talking about. There is a vacant house, a policeman went there and was killed in the bomb.

The call, I’ve heard the call. The call had an older man’s voice, a very, very deep voice. It was 911. That call was hidden – Speaking to your thousand cuts – And was not given to the defense at the time of the trial. It was said it was lost. So for years, all through the initial trial, you couldn’t hear this. They brought a young teenager, 15-year-old Duane Peak, to the courtroom. He said he didn’t do it. He said I don’t have anything to do with it. And they didn’t either at the preliminary hearing. Senator Chambers was there – And Ericka speaks to this – They pulled him out at a recess, brought him back, and he looked like he had been roughed up. The senator said he looked like he’d been crying. They put sunglasses on him and he said, yeah, I did it. And they told me to do it.

Ed had an alibi. Mondo had an alibi. They were both with women somewhere else. They weren’t at the scene. So the initial charge was conspiracy to commit murder. Then they said they blocked off all of Mondo’s house and they found dynamite in Mondo’s house. And Ed knew how to do it because Ed was a veteran, had been in the military. So Ed knew had to do it and was in Mondo’s house.

During the course of the trial, Mondo said, wait a minute. Where they’re showing that picture, there’s a coal bin there. He said, there’s no coal bin there. So the house burnt down during the trial. So it is one thing after another. Then, as Ericka said, in 1996 they came back and they found the young man. Senator Chambers went out there to Seattle, Washington, where he now lives. Duane Peak. They pushed him to witness protection and took him out to Seattle. Tom Owens did a voice expert analysis. And I have to credit Tamik El-Amin, one of the defense committee leaders at the time. Went out there and tested the voice, and said, this voice is not this 15-year-old boy. They tested against Duane’s voice. It’s not him. They took it back to court and they refused to hear it.

There was one break. There was a break in 1974. By the way, Ed had been eligible for parole after two years. It’s now 53 years later.

Mansa Musa:  Right, right, right.

Tekla Johnson:  So in 1974, the Federal District Court said the search of Mondo’s home was illegal. Mind you, the house was burnt down. The evidence was already gone. But they said it was illegal in the first place. 1975, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it. The State of Nebraska, being as it is, appealed with the police union – as Ericka talked about – Pushing, pushing, pushing, and appealed the case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case and sent the case back to state court, where it’s been ever since. They’ve tried everything from habeas corpus writ to everything.

Bob Bardle, one of the attorneys said, we’ve explored everything. We’ve tried to get it. Then in 1993, even before the voice analysis results came out, the Nebraska Parole Board, in 1993, voted to release Mondo, or to commute a sentence to time served, and to do the same with Ed in 1994. It has to then go to the Pardons Board on which the governor, the Secretary of State, and Attorney General for the state all sit. They said, no, we’re not going to do it.

So this has been a political case from start to finish. Both men have maintained their innocence. The problem with the men and the reason that they were targeted, was twofold, of course, because they were members of the Black Panther Party trying to secure freedom, trying to feed the people, trying to educate people, and, we have to remember, trying to stop police violence and murders against Black people. This whole Black Lives Matter … I even said it to Molina up there. Abdullah, this doesn’t mean anything if you can’t recognize those who first fought to try to free you Black people from these police killings. And that is those Black Panther Party members.

Mansa Musa:  Right.

Tekla Johnson:  Yeah, so –

Mansa Musa:  And to echo that point, that’s why it’s so important that we have groups like Jericho. Because it’s a result of Jericho that we constantly are reminded and made aware of political prisoners, what’s going on with political prisoners. But more importantly, it is through Jericho that Ed’s case is constantly at the forefront of people’s minds. But I agree with you that when it comes down to a mass movement on political prisoners, then we fall short at times.

But talk about–- And any one of y’all can weigh in on this–- Where do we stand at in terms of the possibility of getting a medical release? What’s the success ratio in Nebraska there? Because I know in the State of Maryland, where I’m at, I’m in the District of Columbia but in the State of Maryland, this is what they do here, where we at the doctor has got to diagnose that you’re going to die shortly thereafter you released. So it’s not more so to let you go. It’s more about letting you go and die on the street, as opposed to letting you go and try to get treatment. What do we look at for us right now in terms of Ed getting a medical release?

Tekla Johnson:  Well, I will say that he is suffering a diminishing quality of life that’s irreversible, which is the standard in Nebraska. That’s what I would say. He’s eligible, in our opinion and the opinion of the attorney that the family’s working with because he has a diminishing quality of life that’s irreversible. He is in a wheelchair. He’s been wheelchair-bound for years but he has now been amputated below the knee. He cannot turn over in bed very well. And he definitely can’t sit up for more than 10 seconds on his own. He can’t walk. He cannot go to the bathroom by himself.

Mansa Musa:  Rikki, when was the last time you visited Ed?

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  It’s been about three months because of the difficult visitation hours. We live an hour away which is not a lot but if you got to be there at nine o’clock in the morning. But my mother’s doing better. She was in a wheelchair and stuff like that. Now she’s up on the walker, so we are going to make it down there sooner. But still, once a week on Wednesdays is hard if you have to work or anything.

Mansa Musa:  Right. Adrian, what do you want our audience to know about your brother as we move toward closing? What do you want to tell our audience about Ed that they need to know and why they should become involved with Ed’s case?

Adrian Payne:  Well, because like I said, he doesn’t deserve to be in there and he’s been proven innocent.

Mansa Musa:  That’s right.

Adrian Payne:  So he should be out. He’s a wonderful person.

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  And because he has created programs in the prison to help other prisoners; he’s gotten an education. He literally has helped them in the prison to control some of the prisoners. Come on with the programs on how to be a better person and things of that nature. Of course, I’m not technical but he has done multiple programs and things like that. When he was in Lino Lakes, he used to work for them. I have a picture of him in a COOGI sweater.

Mansa Musa:  [Laughs]

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  It’s unreal. I felt like in Minnesota they were keeping him comfortable, trying to keep him quiet. But then, he came back home because of the promise of being able to have a new trial. Then he’s been treated badly in Lincoln, and now my grandmother has passed on. So this fight is for my grandma. My grandma knew that her child was going to make it out. So this fight is for my grandma who passed on in 2011 and my baby sister three months after my grandmother. We are losing people. And come on, make room for the real criminals is how I feel.

Mansa Musa:  And we know that right now, one of them got four different indictments coming out against him and he’s able to walk the streets. He can turn himself in and go right back out without fear of being locked up when the evidence is astronomical against him. Versus the evidence against Ed being astronomical against his innocence. We have more evidence of Ed’s innocence than we have of his guilt. But yet, like I said, the death of a thousand cuts.

Tekla Johnson:  Can I say something about Jericho before we leave?

Mansa Musa:  Yes ma’am.

Tekla Johnson:  I wanted to express how closely the family has been working with Jericho. Ed’s brother and wife, who have power of attorney and power of medical, were able to take a trip up to Nebraska – Help being arranged by, of course, the family that’s already there – And Jericho was able to help provide resources to help them make that way recently. We work very closely with Jericho. I’m a former co-chair of Jericho, as well as a regional chair of Jericho when Baba Herman Ferguson had appointed me back in the late ’90s when they had the Jericho March. So we’ve been working with Jericho very closely the whole time.

Mansa Musa:  Okay, closing out, how does our audience get in touch or learn more about Ed’s case? And how do they become involved in the latest initiative that’s taking place in trying to get a medical release?

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  If they want to get educated on the case there are several YouTube videos, some super-interesting ones, too. Even a cop that said, I think we did the right thing. What does he mean, he thinks he did the right thing.

Mansa Musa:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  The YouTube videos, if nothing else, they’re super informative, super interesting, super frustrating. If they want to be caught up on the case and what went on they’ll also see all the things that didn’t match up and things like that. There’s a big rabbit hole, what they call a rabbit hole with that.

Tekla Johnson:  There’s also a BBC documentary from back in 1993. You can contact me, you can contact – I’m going to let Ericka say for sure if you want her, too. But you can contact me. I’m working closely with the New York chapter of Jericho to get out information. In fact, that’s what we’re sending information through. There’s another local defense committee that the family has been working with but the family has decided to take leadership because – And I’ll be honest,  some folks feel that Ed would be better off going to a retirement home or something like that, instead of the family.

And with Jericho, we always respected the position of the prisoner and always respected the position of the family. So what other people think, especially when they’re not from our community, does not bear on the way they do things, the way we do things. It’s two different things.

Mansa Musa:  Okay, there you have it. The Real News, Rattling the Bars. We want Ed home. And as Rikki said, this is about finding solace for his mother. This is about reversing an injustice that’s been taking place for over 50 years when all the evidence says that Ed is innocent. But more importantly, Ed and his co-defendant need to be exonerated because this is about innocence. This is not about a technicality. This is about people who have done nothing other than stand up against police brutality, stood up against injustice, and because of this, they’ve suffered a death of a thousand cuts.

Thank y’all for joining us today. And we look forward to when Ed comes out, being able to hug his sister, being able to hug his niece, being able to hug all his supporters, and enjoying a nice meal with family. And all will be behind him.

Ericka “Rikki” Payne:  Thank you.

Adrian Payne:  Thank you

Tekla Johnson:  Thank you.

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