LINCOLN — Douglas County must pay attorney fees to a lawyer who handled the final appeal of a man convicted in the 1970 booby-trap bombing that killed an Omaha police officer.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday that Douglas County District Judge James Gleason abused his discretion when he refused to order payment to Timothy Ashford. The Omaha lawyer claimed about $7,400 in fees for work he did on the final post-conviction motion filed by David Rice before his death earlier this year.
The judge had agreed to appoint Ashford to represent the indigent Rice, who went by the name Mondo we Langa. But the judge later called the appeal frivolous and rejected Ashford’s claim for payment.
The Supreme Court judges said once a court appoints a lawyer to a case, reasonable fees must be paid. The high court ordered the case back to Douglas County District Court for the assignment of fees but said a different judge must now handle the matter.
Omaha Police Officer Larry Minard died when a suitcase filled with dynamite exploded as he responded to a 911 call reporting a woman screaming inside a vacant house.
The death, during a period of racial tension in Omaha, touched off a massive hunt for those responsible. Several days after the explosion, Rice and Ed Poindexter turned themselves in to police.
At their joint trial, a 15-year-old former member of the Black Panthers, Duane Peak, testified that he had planted the bomb and called 911 at the direction of Rice and Poindexter.
Both men consistently claimed the were innocent, and they have been portrayed as “political prisoners” by some advocates. The advocates say the men were framed, via false testimony and withheld and tampered evidence, for their radical views.
Rice died in March at the infirmary of the Nebraska State Penitentiary after a lengthy respiratory illness. He was 68.