One of two men convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1970 bombing that killed an Omaha police officer has died, a Nebraska corrections spokesman said Saturday.
David Rice, who used the name Mondo we Langa, died at 11:55 p.m. Friday at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln. He was 68.
Rice was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of Officer Larry Minard, a 29-year-old father of five who died Aug. 17, 1970.
Minard and his partner, Officer John Tess, were dispatched to a house after a 911 call of a woman screaming. When Minard leaned over to examine a suitcase at the house at 2867 Ohio St., the bag exploded.
The blast blew Minard into Tess, who was about 15 feet behind Minard, and knocked them both through a wall. Tess survived.
Rice was being treated for a long-term medical condition, though the cause of his death had not been determined, said prison spokesman Andrew Nystrom.
He did not identify the condition from which Rice suffered. A grand jury will review the circumstances of the death, a requirement whenever an inmate dies.
Both Rice and the other man convicted in the booby-trap killing, Edward Poindexter, have long maintained their innocence.
But seven times, judges have rejected bids for new trials for the men.
Legal efforts to vindicate the men have focused on the credibility of a key witness and suggestions that the men were targeted because they were Black Panthers.
A number of people, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, activist Angela Davis, actor Danny Glover and State Sen. Ernie Chambers, consider Rice and Poindexter to be political prisoners.
They have said the men were framed — convicted through coerced testimony — because they advocated violence against police when they were members of an Omaha affiliate of the Black Panthers.
Poindexter has argued that prosecutors withheld evidence from his lawyers, including the existence of a tape recording of the 911 call that summoned officers to the house. Poindexter claims that a voice analysis would show that the voice of the person who testified that he planted the suitcase at the direction of Rice and Poindexter and then called 911 — Duane Peak, 15 at the time — does not match the recording.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors had notified defense lawyers about the 911 recording and that Poindexter had failed to prove that the outcome of his trial would have been changed by a voice-identification test.
A police search of Rice’s home at the time found 14 sticks of dynamite, four blasting caps, electrical wire, a battery, two magnets and pliers. The dynamite was the same type as used in the suitcase bomb. Rice maintained the dynamite was planted and was not his.
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