On August 23, 2021, we filed an amicus brief in the New Jersey Supreme Court on behalf of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, the Black Police Experience, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, and the Grand Council of Guardians, Inc. to support the release on parole of Sundiata Acoli, a former Black Panther and member of the Black Liberation Army.
Sundiata Acoli is an 84-year-old man, born in 1937 in Texas in the era of Jim Crow. Mr. Acoli has been incarcerated for nearly five decades for his role in the murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973 on the New Jersey Turnpike after a traffic stop for a broken taillight. Mr. Acoli has spent more than half of his life in prison cells the size of a parking space, including nearly twenty years as a senior citizen. Though first eligible for parole almost thirty years ago, and despite a significant record of personal development and rehabilitation during his incarceration, including no disciplinary infractions for at least the last 25 years, Mr. Acoli has been repeatedly denied parole and subject to lengthy future eligibility terms at each subsequent hearing.
We argue that at his most recent hearing, the Parole Board abused its discretion by drifting into considerations of punishment beyond its statutory authority. Punishment for punishment’s sake does not foster community safety, is an affront to racial justice, and undermines the purpose and societal benefits of parole release.
Press on the brief:
- Ed Pilkington, Black police groups call for ex-Black Panther jailed for 48 years to be released, The Guardian
- Sharon Pruitt-Young, He’s In Prison For Killing A Trooper. Now, Some Black Police Groups Want Him Released, NPR
- Black Police Groups Back Release of Ex-Black Panther Sundiata Acoli, Jailed Since 1973, Democracy Now!
- Anoa Changa, Black August Is Over, But The Fight For Black Liberation Continues, News One
- Niara Savage, Black Law Enforcement Groups Argue 84-Year-Old Former Black Panther Imprisoned for 50 Years Over New Jersey Trooper’s Murder Should be Released, Atlanta Black Star
- Hassan Kanu, Cops’ support spotlights race issues in ex-Black Panther’s parole case, Reuters
- Kevin Shea, Black police groups will argue before N.J. Supreme Court to grant parole to man convicted of killing trooper, NJ.com
- Paul Meara, Black Officers Group Takes NJ Supreme Court Stand For Man Involved In 1973 Police Shooting Incident Linked To Assata Shakur, BET