After nearly half a century in prison, a New Jersey court granted parole to one of the oldest members of the Black Panthers, Sundiata Acoli, who was convicted of murdering a national cavalryman in 1973.
In 1974, the 85-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison for being shot and killed by then 35-year-old Wener Foerster after experiencing routine traffic jams on the New Jersey turnpike.
The former Black Liberation Army, a former Black Panther militant, was paroled on Tuesday after 49 years of service.
Sophia Elijah, a lawyer, said: “I would have repeated it at least six times when I spoke with Sundiatta today and said that the court ruled in her favor.” told CBS News.
Routinely denied parole since gaining qualification 29 years ago, Akoli claimed he was unconscious during the infamous 1973 shooting battle and that Foster was no longer alive when he went.
On that day in 1973, Black Liberation Army members Assata and Malik Shakur were also in the car, and the police stopped Acoli at the time. Also convicted and sentenced to life in prison, Asata escaped from his New Jersey prison in 1979, where he now resides in Cuba, where he was granted asylum by then-President Fidel Castro.
She remains a wanted fugitive.
In a decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court in favor of overturning Acoli’s Parole Board decision by 3-2, they wrote: But the question is whether Akoli, who has been incarcerated for nearly 50 years, has met the legal requirements that govern his parole eligibility.”
The written comments added that the 85-year-old had an “exemplary” record of nearly 50 years of service and detailed how a state-assigned psychologist expressed how Acoli expressed her true “deep regret” for her involvement in Foerster’s tragic death. .
The news of Acoli’s parole received congratulations on one side, and family and supporters rejoiced that the man would be released after serving a sentence of nearly two life sentences (25 years in New Jersey).
Acoli’s sister Alice Squire Fisher said in a video posted on her official Twitter account that “there will be peace and joy as before.” “We’re going to tell the world who my brother is,” she said.
According to CBS, not everyone saw the parole of an 85-year-old who suffers from dementia and other health problems as a moment worth documenting.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has expressed his “deep disappointment” to the court over the parole grant.
“Our men and women in uniform are heroes, and anyone who tries to take the life of an officer on duty must be imprisoned to the end of his life,” the governor said in a prepared statement.
Governor Murphy also cited a 1996 New Jersey law passed in New Jersey by then New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman to state that felons convicted of killing a police officer on duty would face life in prison without parole.
However, Acoli was sentenced to death in 1974, which means the law does not apply to his case.
The lawyer told CBS that he and his family plan to go to New York to live with their daughters, nieces and grandchildren.