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          <a class="domain reader-domain"
href="https://www.nj.com/news/2019/12/appeals-court-denies-cop-killers-latest-bid-for-parole.html">https://www.nj.com/news/2019/12/appeals-court-denies-cop-killers-latest-bid-for-parole.html</a></font>
        <h1 class="reader-title">Appeals court denies cop killer’s
          latest bid for parole</h1>
        December 27, 2019<br>
        <br>
        A man convicted in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey State Police
        trooper should not receive parole anytime soon, an appellate
        panel has concluded.</div>
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                <p id="X4AT4G3XJNE7VGLU6BOR2Q3BXI">Sundiata Acoli, now
                  82, was convicted along with Joanne Chesimard in the <a
href="https://www.nj.com/politics/2015/11/state_police_honor_trooper_killed_by_cuban_fugitiv.html"
                    target="_blank">shooting death of Trooper Werner
                    Foerster</a> and wounding of Trooper James Harper
                  during a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike in
                  East Brunswick.</p>
                <p id="D576DHNUPFHGRORATDXPCPEI5M">A three-judge
                  appellate panel affirmed the state parole board’s
                  denial of Acoli’s latest bid for parole, with one
                  judge dissenting.</p>
                <p id="D6V42TLDUNCXHKCXY3JBYCGOKY">Formerly known as
                  Clark Edward Squire, Acoli was sentenced in 1974 to
                  life plus 24 to 30 years in prison for his crimes. <a
href="https://www.nj.com/politics/2019/06/menendez-launches-new-push-for-cuba-to-return-joanne-chesimard-who-was-convicted-of-killing-nj-state-trooper.html"
                    target="_blank">Chesimard escaped from prison in
                    1979</a> and fled to Cuba. She remains on the FBI’s
                  most wanted list.</p>
                <p id="DSDRKFK4WFAYXCVDIHAVEY46YI">Acoli was denied
                  parole in 1994 and 2004, with the parole board citing
                  “continued anti-social behavior” and continued denial
                  of the evidence presented at his trial.</p>
                <p id="PAQT4A3FFRATVFYJVCKD7WF6RU">After a two-member
                  parole board panel denied him again in 2010, Acoli
                  appealed and the state appellate court ruled in 2014
                  that <a
href="https://www.nj.com/politics/2014/09/man_convicted_in_1973_nj_state_trooper_killing_involving_joanne_chesimard_should_get_parole_appellat.html"
                    target="_blank">he was wrongly denied parole </a>and
                  ordered his release.</p>
                <p id="EPWNQ3I6UZDAZHVBOVFWOJB4W4">The state attorney
                  general and parole board appealed that ruling to the
                  state Supreme Court, <a
href="https://www.nj.com/politics/2016/02/sundiata_acoli_supreme_court_decision.html"
                    target="_blank">which reversed the lower court
                    ruling </a>in 2016 and ordered that he receive a
                  hearing before the full parole board.</p>
                <p id="GBMQF3FYX5CBXNU6FJZBJCR6X4">While Acoli
                  previously stated that he blacked out during the
                  confrontation with the troopers because of a graze
                  wound from a bullet and didn’t remember how Foerster
                  died, he speculated during this new hearing that
                  another trooper “probably” shot Foerster with a
                  “friendly fire shot.”</p>
                <p id="6BA6ICUM2FESRCH4FLWEEPUCSE">Acoli and Chesimard
                  were members of the Black Panthers and the militant
                  Black Liberation Army at the time of the shooting.</p>
                <p id="L5OCLRASDJCMVC4JJV3IQNKUH4">Trooper James Harper
                  stopped their car for a broken tail light just after
                  midnight on May 2, 1973. Harper called Foerster for
                  backup and Foerster discovered Acoli had a gun,
                  according to previous reports.</p>
                <p id="23JUYQEHPVAYDIQSXAHJDNTWNA">During a gun battle,
                  Chesimard shot and wounded Harper and Foerster was
                  shot when Acoli’s gun fired during a struggle between
                  the men. The prosecution argued that Chesimard then
                  took Foerster’s gun and shot him twice in the head.
                  The defense argued that Chesimard was too badly
                  injured from her own gunshot wounds to have killed
                  Foerster.</p>
                <p id="GADZWGUA5JAI7AF3SORAGCJ2HM">A third man in the
                  car with Acoli and Chesimard, James Costan, was shot
                  and killed at the scene.</p>
                <p id="O5AGTZPJVVFZ3NEY6NFZ55VWIQ">In seeking parole,
                  Acoli claimed he led a crime-free life for about 40
                  years and took “full responsibility” for Foerster’s
                  death. The parole board didn’t buy it, though, calling
                  it “disturbing” that he would raise the friendly fire
                  theory — which is not supported by ballistic evidence
                  — while also claiming he took responsibility for the
                  crime.</p>
                <p id="6ZOMJXSTWZCHND4TBBPKG44PCQ">The parole board
                  found there remained a “substantial likelihood” he
                  would commit new crimes if released from prison. His
                  bid for parole was denied and a 15-year period of
                  parole ineligibility was set.</p>
                <p id="JMT7R7TMAVBNNMYZ4ZTJFNII4M">In reviewing his
                  appeal of that decision, <a
href="https://www.njcourts.gov/attorneys/assets/opinions/appellate/published/a5645-16.pdf?c=6EZ"
                    target="_blank">the appellate court ruled Friday</a>
                  that the parole board’s decision was reasonable and
                  supported by “substantial credible evidence.”</p>
                <p id="2G6FSLNE5RD33HJMLPQRIWCCNI">Appellate Judge Garry
                  S. Rothstadt, disagreed with his colleagues’ decision.
                  In a dissenting option, Rothstadt said Acoli had been
                  a model prisoner for decades and that the parole
                  denial included no evidence that he was likely to
                  commit new crimes if released.</p>
                <p id="XNYACW6VCNAUFAXFOTW6EUMO64">He said Acoli’s new
                  speculation about how Foerster was shot doesn’t change
                  the fact that he has expressed remorse for his part in
                  the crime.</p>
                <p id="K2NSVTQFIVDMZCFLW2RTXEX3HM">Acoli, one of the
                  state’s oldest and longest-serving inmates, is
                  currently housed at a federal prison in Maryland.</p>
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                  <div><figcaption><br>
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                <p id="HX35AP62UVC3PHCI2INIUX467Q"><i>Matt Gray may be
                    reached at </i><a
                    href="mailto:mgray@njadvancemedia.com"><i>mgray@njadvancemedia.com</i></a><i>.
                    Follow him on Twitter </i><a
                    href="https://twitter.com/MattGraySJT"><i>@MattGraySJT</i></a><i>.
                    Find </i><a href="https://www.facebook.com/NJ.com"><i>NJ.com
                      on Facebook</i></a><i>.</i></p>
                <p id="J4ZAHNONURFU7HYUQHTDGKANPA"><br>
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