Nearly 50 years after he and other Black Liberation Army members engaged in a fatal shootout with a New Jersey state trooper, Sundiata Acoli was granted parole in a 3-2 decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court, reports Courthouse News Service. “Our order releasing Acoli on parole does not absolve him of the senseless crimes he committed almost fifty years ago,” said Justice Barry Albin. “He is not released out of sympathy or compassion. He must be released because the statutory standards for granting parole have been met.” Acoli, now 85, has been eligible for parole for nearly 30 years but had been denied several times. The court found that Acoli, who suffers from dementia, is unlikely to commit another crime and is free to live with his daughter.
It was not until 1996, over 20 years after Acoli was convicted, that New Jersey passed a law that gives a life sentence without parole to anyone convicted of killing a member of law enforcement. Justices Lee Solomon and Anne Patterson wrote in dissent that the majority overstepped the court’s authority. “In our view, the majority diminishes the role of the Parole Board by making this Court the finder of fact,” Solomon wrote.
Solomon said Acoli has never taken responsibility for the murder and continues to lie about the 1973 shooting.
“However much we may abhor the terrible crimes that Acoli committed, he was sentenced and punished according to the law in effect at the time of his offenses — and he is protected by that same law, the law that we are dutybound to uphold, the law that gives him the right to be paroled today,” Albin wrote. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted, “I am deeply disappointed that Sundiata Acoli, a man who murdered Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973, will be released from prison.”