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Ed Poindexter, who spent a half-century in prison for a crime many say he didn’t commit, died Thursday

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Ed Poindexter, who spent a half-century in prison for a crime many say he didn’t commit, died Thursday

Dec 08, 2023 | 2:09 pm ET
By Paul Hammel
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Ed Poindexter, who spent a half-century in prison for a crime many say he didn’t commit, died Thursday
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A recent effort to have the conviction of Ed Poindexter overturned included this "Freedom for Ed" billboard erected in North Omaha. (Courtesy of Kietryn Zychal)

LINCOLN — Ed Poindexter, labeled a political prisoner by many civil rights advocates, died Thursday in prison after a lengthy battle with diabetes and more than a half century behind bars.

Poindexter, 79, and David Rice, who died in prison in 2016, were convicted of murder in the 1970 booby-trap bombing that killed Omaha Police Officer Larry Minard.

Ed poindexter
Ed Poindexter (Courtesy of Nebraska Department of Corrections)

The pair were members of a Black Panther-like group and their conviction, amid a period of heightened racial tensions in North Omaha, was one of the most controversial in Nebraska history.

Many claimed Poindexter and Rice, who adopted the name Wopashitewe Mondo Eyen we Langa, had been framed for the bombing because of their political activism.

It was later revealed that the pair were targets of a controversial FBI program, COINTELPRO, to discredit and undermine such activists. Amnesty International had called for a new trial for them, labeling Poindexter and Rice “prisoners of conscience.”

Many claimed that the star witness against the pair, Duane Peak, who planted the suitcase bomb, had lied on the stand to avoid prison.

Due to the nature of politics, there was never a legitimate chance for him to be free,” said State Sen. Terrell McKinney of Poindexter on Friday.

Kietryn Zychal, a journalist who has written extensively on the case, said the case against Poindexter was “a ridiculous story,” but that the truth might never be revealed.

“I think that this is a mystery that will never be solved, unless someone who knows something comes forward and tells the truth,” Zychal said.

While the Minard family consistently maintained that the pair were rightly convicted, a “Freedom for Ed” movement was active for several years after legal appeals failed.

Last year, the Midwest Innocence Project agreed to take up his case, but was unable to visit with Poindexter, who was recovering from the amputation of a leg due to diabetes.

A year ago, family members called for his release from prison on medical grounds, arguing that the wheelchair-bound inmate was no longer a threat, according to the Omaha World-Herald. But the plea, directed at then Gov.-elect Jim Pillen, was unsuccessful.

Ed Poindexter
Ed Poindexter, pictured at a Minnesota prison where he was transferred in 1979 to complete a college degree. (Courtesy of Kietryn Zychal)

Some friends and family members of Poindexter, a Vietnam veteran, were allowed to visit the inmate, who was placed in hospice care earlier this week.

Zychal said that prison officials were very accommodating to visitors of Poindexter, who was very active in counseling other inmates, especially young inmates.

He worked in a prison audio-visual department, and produced motivational rap songs under the name, “Jammer from the Slammer.” Poindexter was also active in Toastmasters and a prison group, the Harambee Association, that combats alcoholism and encourages a healthy mindset in prison.