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N.J. Supreme Court to Review Sundiata Acoli's Parole

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on April 02, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In 1973, Clark Edward Squire was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the murder of a New Jersey state trooper during a traffic stop.

Last year, Squire -- now known as Sundiata Acoli -- successfully petitioned a New Jersey appellate court to release him on parole. The state attorney general appealed that decision, and the New Jersey Supreme Court announced it would hear the case.

No Parole Just Yet

Acoli petitioned for parole in 1993, 2004, and 2011. Each time, he was denied. The New Jersey appellate court said that the parole board ignored his progress in prison; he hadn't received a disciplinary citation since 1996 (though he had tried to escape in 1982 and received 27 citations before 1997, reported New Jersey Advance Media). He had also expressed remorse for his crime, the court said, criticizing the parole board for focusing too much on his past crimes and not enough on how he had been rehabilitated.

Oh, and he's also 78 years old and has spent the last 42 years in prison.

None of that mattered to the state attorney general, who appealed to the state's highest court on the ground that the appellate court shouldn't have taken it upon itself to order Acoli's parole. Instead, the brief said, the court should have remanded the case to the parole board for another hearing.

For the time being, Acoli will remain in prison.

'Acoli has paid the penalty'

The other suspect in the 1973 shooting was Joanne Chesimard, who was also convicted of murder, but escaped from prison in 1979. She fled to Cuba, changed her name to Assata Shakur, and remains there as a "political refugee." The FBI classified her as a domestic terrorist and added her to its Most Wanted Terrorist List in 2013, earning Shakur the dubious distinction of being the first woman on the list.

The state argued that Shakur shot trooper James Harper, according to the Associated Press, but that Acoli killed another trooper, Werner Foerster, during the same stop. Acoli said he blacked out after being grazed by a bullet and didn't remember what happened.

While acknowledging the seriousness of Acoli's crimes, the court of appeals observed, "Acoli has paid the penalty under the laws of this State for his crimes."

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