Rae Ann Schmitz, the alibi witness for Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, formerly David Rice, at his April 1971 murder trial, still stands by Mondo’s innocence and credits him with changing her life. Schmitz told the Scottsbuff Star Herald that she is certain that many people have been influenced by Mondo who died March 11 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Mondo was serving a life sentence for the 1970 murder of an Omaha policeman.
“He was in a place where he could affect people in a very profound way….I think there were hundreds of people positively affected by his life behind those walls,” Schmitz said.
Schmitz was Mondo we Langa’s alibi witness for a bombing murder that claimed the life of Larry Minard, Sr. . However, Schmitz was also an alibi witness for Mondo when he was supposed to have met with fifteen year-old Duane Peak to give him the bomb. David Herzog, Mondo’s defense lawyer, failed to adequately prepare Schmitz for trial and did not realize that Mondo was with Schmitz when Mondo allegedly gave Peak the bomb. Herzog did not ask Peak any questions during cross-examination over the timing of the supposed rendezvous. The conflicting accounts were never made an issue at trial or on appeal and only show up in depositional testimony which was never explored for the jury.
At the trial, Peak did not testify what time he met with Mondo to pick up a suitcase bomb only saying it was in the afternoon. David Herzog failed to ask Peak any questions about the time of the alleged meeting during cross-examination. However, in a pre-trial deposition, Peak said the two talked together at 4:00 p.m. Schmitz testified that Mondo was with her from 1:30 until sometime between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. when she dropped him off at Kountze Park.
Mondo was convicted with Edward Poindexter and the two men became known as the Omaha Two. Poindexter is serving a life sentence at the maximum-security prison in Lincoln. The two Omaha men were leaders of a Black Panther affiliate chapter and targets of an illegal, clandestine counterintelligence operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Under orders from J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO was directed at the destruction of the Black Panther Party and the elimination of its leadership.
Mondo raised the issue of ineffective assistance by counsel in a recent appeal. An Omaha judge tossed out Mondo’s appeal, in part, because Mondo purportedly did not allege his innocence properly in the appeal. The Nebraska Supreme Court then dismissed Mondo’s appeal without bothering to issue a written opinion explaining the decision.
Schmitz told the Scottsbluff newspaper, “People don’t want to believe that our justice system is so [messed] up.”