This is the cover of "Framed: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO and the Omaha Two Story," a series by Michael Richardson for NorthOmahaHistory.com.

“FRAMED” Chapter 20 by Michael Richardson

“I blew up that pig”
—Duane Peak to sister Theresa

 

The trial resumed with cross-examination of Duane Peak by Thomas Kenney, who paced slowly before the jury box. During the day’s testimony the court room audience swelled to one hundred and fifty spectators, filling all the seats. The defendants appeared to be calm and relaxed. However, during Peak’s testimony they were somber and attentive, made notes and conferred with their attorneys.

 

Douglas County Courthouse, Omaha, Nebraska
The trial was held in the main courtroom of the Douglas County Courthouse. Little more than a half- century earlier the Courthouse was the scene of the lynching of Will Brown. (credit: Shannon Patrick)

 

Peak admitted he had rehearsed his testimony with Arthur O’Leary a number of times. When asked if he intended to kill a policeman Peak answered coolly. “I had thought of the idea.”[i]

“I just left it there not to harm anyone. As far as my thinking at the time, I felt that it would put a particular feeling on the Omaha Police Department and make them lighten up on their attempts to abuse people.”

“Well, in various attempts the police had abused people and I felt if they found a bomb at a house which they was called to go to, this would in some way frighten them.”[ii]

Peak said he left the suitcase unlocked and admitted giving two versions of what happened to the key. Peak told the police he had thrown the key behind the door while he testified to something quite different. “I tossed it in a field next to my sister’s house, Delia.”

Peak told of his familiarity with 2867 Ohio Street and the immediate neighborhood as he lived just down the block at 2809 Ohio Street while he was in junior high school. Peak was a student at North High School for a “quarter of a semester” when he was expelled for fighting with a white student as part of a racial disturbance. Duane said he left his father’s house when he was fourteen and had lived with Delia and at NCCF headquarters but couldn’t remember how long. Peak moved around several different locations for a night or two at time.

Peak started taking “red devils” in the spring of 1970 and admitted lying to Dr. Beitenman, an examining psychiatrist, about his use of barbituates. When questioning turned to the National Committee to Combat Fascism and its activities, Peak answered succinctly. “Everyone was aware of the conditions. We were just trying to bring it to political awareness.”[iii]

Peak recalled an encounter with police where he was attacked. “I think it was in the middle of January, at Caniglia’s at 30th and Fort Streets. We were in a fight, me and Frank Peak and William Peak were in a fight with a bunch of white racists and when the police came, they attacked all three of us.”

 

Caniglia's Royal Boy Drive-In Order Board
This is the order board from Caniglia’s Royal Boy Drive-In in the 1960s.

 

“I was struck….They called me various names such as Black nigger.”[iv]

Peak was asked about the Omaha Police Department. “I didn’t like it. They represented a Fascist government that was oppressing people….I could give one instance when Vivian Strong was shot for being on capitalist’s property.”[v]

Peak admitted stealing a shotgun out of a police car and knowledge of a burglary at a gas station. Duane admitted talking about blowing up the police station with Donald and Russell Peak. “If I remember, it was discussed but not of us doing it.”

Kenney turned his questions to the 911 phone call and asked Peak how he felt making the call. Peak replied, “I felt somewhat strange.”[vi]

Kenney mentioned Peak’s first statement to police where Peak claimed to have found a note which directed him to Lothrop Drug Store to pick up a suitcase by an incinerator. Kenney asked Peak about a different version of his story given to O’Leary three days later. Peak said he couldn’t remember making any statement implicating Ed Poindexter. Peak didn’t remember changing his answer about the location of the suitcase in Mondo’s house from the basement to the bedroom.[vii]

Peak admitted making two false statements about his placement of the suitcase. The first incorrect statement was, “I put in the living room in the middle of the floor.” The second was, “I set it down and it was setting straight up.”[viii]

Kenney moved to the preliminary hearing and the oath Peak took to tell the truth. Peak said he believed in God but admitted telling Theresa that he didn’t. Peak admitted he testified at the preliminary hearing that he did not see Ed Poindexter as he now claimed at trial. He remembered his testimony that he didn’t go to Mondo’s house with Poindexter. Peak also remembered testifying that he did not see Poindexter at the American Legion club.

Peak denied laughing about the explosion. Peak also denied ever telling anyone how to construct a bomb. Multiple witnesses would soon contradict each denial.

Duane discussed his siblings and said that he was closest to his brother Donald and confided in him. Peak admitted telling Theresa the reason he planted the bomb was, “Because I wanted to.”[ix]

David Herzog took over cross-examination. Peak denied telling Olivia Norris that the next time a “dumb cop” sees a suitcase he won’t pick it up.

Herzog questioned Peak’s denial of laughing at Larry Minard’s death. Peak said that he couldn’t remember if anyone saw him laugh. Then Peak said, “Maybe, yes.”

“If I remember right, Donald and I were sitting in front of the television and talking.”[x]

“I don’t remember for sure….That is about the only time and I don’t even remember that time.”[xi]

Peak denied that Annie or Olivia Norris heard him laugh about the bombing. Peak also denied that Willie Haynie, Margaret White, and his sister Theresa heard him laugh.[xii]

 

Text from Duane Peak trial testimony
Five witnesses contradicted Duane Peak’s claim he and brother Donald did not laugh about Larry Minard’s death. Witnesses, including sister Theresa, stated the brothers repeatedly laughed about the murder. (credit: Trial Transcript)

 

Peak denied discussing construction of a suitcase bomb with his cousin Russell. Herzog asked about the conversation with Russell. Duane repeatedly denied telling his cousin how to make a bomb when suddenly the story changed.

“I explained to him how to make a people’s hand grenade…..Excuse me. I do remember telling him now….I remember telling him that.”[xiii]

Peak admitted also talking to John Jerks about making a bomb. Peak said that when he was arrested he was in the company of a deserter from the Marine Corps but he did not know the man’s name. The only person he named from the arrest was James Perry who questioned him. Donald Peak was also present at the arrest.

Herzog reviewed Peak’s contradictory statements. One of the statements was telling police he left the suitcase in a field next to a fence and not at 2867 Ohio Street. Another contradiction was Mondo’s alleged role in construction of the bomb.

Herzog established that every version of Peak’s story was different in the details. Peak admitted telling O’Leary he left the suitcase in the middle of the floor at the vacant house and not the doorway or in a field next to a fence. Peak also confirmed that O’Leary told him, “As a practical matter, it doesn’t make any difference what the truth is concerning you at all.”[xiv]

Herzog turned to the preliminary hearing and Peak admitted making false statements to County Attorney Donald Knowles. Peak recalled a recess in the hearing when he was transferred to the city jail and met with his grandfather and his brother Donald before changing his testimony. Peak remembered

being afraid during his arrest that he would be killed by police officers and later being threatened by police with the electric chair if he didn’t answer questions. Peak recalled being again threatened with the electric chair during the recess at his preliminary hearing.[xv]

Peak told of repeated discussions with O’Leary about triggering the bomb. “He just helped me remember it.”[xvi]

Duane Peak was back on the witness stand the next day. Peak said his false statements to police were an attempt to protect Ed Poindexter and Mondo. Peak ended nearly ten hours of testimony with the introduction of a letter he wrote to his grandmother, Hazel Goodlett, from the Fremont County Jail. “I had always thought that when Mama died everything about being good went with her so I turned to hate.”[xvii]

“I was so absorbed in hatred I could barely see….So to quench my anger and revenge I would beat people.”[xviii]

“I decided to turn against everyone….I was worse than the devil himself.”[xix]

Theresa Peak was the next witness. Theresa saw Duane with a suitcase Sunday evening. Theresa told the jury she had a conversation with Duane about Larry Minard’s murder. “You know, because he was sitting up laughing and I said, “What are you laughing about?” and then he told me, he said, “I blew up that pig,” and I asked him why did he do it, and he said, “Because I wanted to.”[xx]

On cross-examination, Theresa remembered Duane saying, “I did it on my own.”[xxi]

Delia Peak followed her sister to the witness stand. Delia said that Duane and Donald had come to her apartment with a suitcase on Sunday evening. Delia watched Duane take the suitcase to the bathroom.

“I asked him what was in it and he said, “Some clothes,” and I didn’t press the question too much because I figured he had stolen the suitcase.”[xxii]

Delia recalled her deposition testimony that Donald Peak was laughing at the news of Larry Minard’s death. “Yes, laughing.”[xxiii]

Willie Haynie, Delia’s boyfriend, testified next. Questioning turned to the first news broadcast when Duane and Donald learned about Minard’s murder. “They joked around.”

Haynie said he and the two Peak brothers drove to the scene of the crime. On the way there the pair continued to joke about the bombing. Haynie parked near the bombed house where they could watch police search the rubble. Haynie said that Duane and Donald continued to joke about the explosion.[xxiv]

After the afternoon recess, Donald Peak, Jr. was called  to testify. Donald was asked if he and Duane ever laughed while Duane had the suitcase. “We always laughed and joked. We must have been laughing and joking.”[xxv]

 

Text of Donald Peak from the trial
“…I may have smirked about it, I don’t remember whether I was laughing about it.” (credit: Trial Transcript)

 

When asked directly by Kenney if he and Duane had laughed about the bombing, Donald answered with a vague reply. “I couldn’t say, really, because I don’t remember. I may have smirked about it, I don’t remember whether I was laughing about it.”[xxvi]

 

Donald denied going into Olivia Norris’ kitchen and laughing with Duane about his suitcase. “We didn’t go in the kitchen. And we always laugh and joke. It all depends on what you mean as to what we were laughing about.” [xxvii]

David Herzog began his cross-examination asking about the suitcase. Donald Peak said while at the Norris home he noticed the suitcase had a hole and wires sticking out. Herzog pressed Peak about this new testimony and asked him why he never told police about the hole and wire. “I probably did. I don’t know, really.”[xxviii]

Donald admitted he stayed with Duane after the explosion and traveled from place to place. Donald admitted being with Duane on Sunday evening and Monday morning, before and after the bombing. Donald said he was present when Duane was arrested.

Herzog asked Donald about his deposition statement he would lie to protect Duane. Donald remembered the sworn statement. “Even if it required lying….My first concern is my brother.”[xxix]

Mondo later questioned why Donald Peak was never charged in the Minard murder. “Only two people were actually implicated: Duane Peak and his brother, Donald. Testimony was given to the effect that these two parties had been seen together with the suitcase, had been observed holding whispered conversations while in possession of the suitcase, had been seen and heard laughing and joking together about the bombing several hours after it had taken place, etc. But Donald Peak was never brought to trial to face any charges whatsoever in regard to the Minard death.”[xxx]

Annie Norris was the next witness. Norris testified she saw Duane Peak with a suitcase the night of the bombing. Norris said Duane and Donald were at her home Sunday evening for about fifteen minutes before they left carrying the suitcase. Norris saw the two brothers together in the kitchen with the suitcase. “Talking and laughing, yes.”[xxxi]

Norris testified her deposition statement about Duane talking about killing policemen was true. “Him and Donnie and whole bunch more boys be sitting around talking and sometimes they are going to say they are going to blow up the police station, but I thought they must be joking.”[xxxii]

During the afternoon, the prosecution began laying a foundation for the introduction of scientific evidence. Deputy Ernest Mackey testified that he received clothing when Mondo was booked after he turned himself in. Mondo’s clothing was placed on a hanger and immediately put in a property room. Several hours later Mackey released the garments to Richard Curd, an ATF agent. Curd testified about collecting evidence and sending it to Washington for analysis. Curd said he was joined by four or five other ATF agents at the crime scene to help search for clues.

Curd examined prosecution exhibits, including three pairs of pliers taken from Mondo’s home. Curd also examined the clothing Mackey had taken custody of which Curd testified he packaged for shipment to Washington. “I took it back to our office and I then boxed it up and sent it to our national laboratory in Washington.”[xxxiii]

Prosecutor Sam Cooper handed Curd a suitcase handle wrapped inside a plastic bag. Curd identified it as an item he found embedded in the dirt at 2867 Ohio shortly after the explosion. Curd also said scrapings taken from under Mondo’s fingernails and cotton swabs which were daubed over Mondo’s fingers were sent in for analysis. Curd was present when Mondo’s hands were swabbed. Test results from the ATF Laboratory would later confirm Mondo’s hand swabs were negative for dynamite, raising the unasked and unanswered questions of when and how did dynamite particles get into Mondo’s pants pocket.

 

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Citations

  • [i]  Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 501, April 6, 1971
  • [ii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 502, April 6, 1971
  • [iii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 511, April 6, 1971
  • [iv]  Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 512. April 6, 1971
  • [v] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 513, April 6, 1971
  • [vi] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 516, April 6, 1971
  • [vii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 520, April 6, 1971
  • [viii]  Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 522, April 6, 1971
  • [ix] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 530, April 6, 1971
  • [x] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 540, April 6, 1971
  • [xi] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 541, April 6, 1971
  • [xii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 551, April 6, 1971
  • [xiii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 554, April 6, 1971
  • [xiv]  Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 587, April 6, 1971
  • [xv]  TrialTranscript, Vol. 4, p. 600, April 6, 1971
  • [xvi] Trial Transcript, Vol. 4, p. 602, April 6, 1971
  • [xvii] Trial Transcript, Exhibit 31, p. 1, Oct. 6, 1970
  • [xviii] Trial Transcript, Exhibit 31, p. 2, Oct. 6, 1970
  • [xix]  Trial Transcript, Exhibit 31, p. 3, Oct. 6, 1970
  • [xx] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 604, April 7, 1971
  • [xxi] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 607, April 7, 1971
  • [xxii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 617, April 7, 1971
  • [xxiii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 625, April 7, 1971
  • [xxiv] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 633, April 7, 1971
  • [xxv] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 641, April 7, 1971
  • [xxvi] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 642, April 7, 1971
  • [xxvii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 646, April 7, 1971
  • [xxviii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 647, April 7, 1971
  • [xxix] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 650, April 7, 1971
  • [xxx] Mondo, “Summary of Rice-Poindexter Case,” p. 3, 1972
  • [xxxi] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 657, April 7, 1971
  • [xxxii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 658, April 7, 1971
  • [xxxiii]  Trial Transcript, Vol. 5, p. 691, April 7, 1971

 

 


About The Author

Edward Poindexter and writer Michael Richardson in 2016.
This is Edward Poindexter and writer Michael Richardson in 2016.

Michael Richardson is a former Omaha resident who attended Westside High School and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Richardson was a VISTA Volunteer on the Near-Northside and served on the Nebraska Commission on Aging before moving from the state. Richardson attended the Minard murder trial and reported on the case in 1971 for the Omaha Star in his first published article. After a nineteen year career as a disability rights advocate, Richardson worked for Ralph Nader coordinating his ballot access campaigns in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Richardson has written extensively for the San Francisco Bay View, OpEdNews.com and Examiner.com about the trial while spending the last decade researching and writing the book.


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Adam F. C. Fletcher

I'm a consultant, writer and speaker who teaches people about engaging people. I specialize in youth engagement, student voice and personal engagement. I also research and write about the history of North Omaha, Nebraska. Learn more at adamfletcher.net.

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