After serving nearly 50 years for killing a New Jersey state agent, a revolutionary is free

The court ruled 3-2 that the probation commission had not determined that Acoli would likely commit another crime if she was released, and concluded that “Acoli’s track record has been exemplary for more than a quarter of a century.”

Acoli has heart problems and is losing his eyesight, Afran said. He also suffers from amnesia. He added that Acoli regrets his role in Foerster’s death.

“He very touchingly understood the tragedy that had happened. He even said to the… [parole] board of directors: ‘I know that Trooper Foerster’s son has lost his father. At least my kids still have me, even though I’ve been away,” Afran said.

“He sincerely expressed his deepest condolences.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy wrote on Twitter at the time of the court’s ruling that he was “deeply disappointed”, Acoli was to be released. “Our men and women in uniform are heroes, and anyone who would take the life of a serving officer should be behind bars until the end of their life,” Murphy said.

In an earlier statement, Patrick Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Benevolent Association, had called the court’s decision “a slap in the face for any officer.”

A broken taillight

The tragedy unfolded on May 2, 1973.

Acoli, formerly known as Clark Edward Squire, was in a car with two other members of the Black Liberation Army – James Costan and Joanne Chesimard – when they were stopped on the Turnpike by trooper James Harper due to a broken taillight. All three in the car were armed.

Foerster arrived for backup and searched Acoli, finding a pistol. A firefight ensued in which Harper was wounded and Foerster and Costan were killed. Foerster was shot four times, although it is still unclear who fired the fatal shots, courts say.

Acoli insists he lost consciousness after being hit by a bullet in the shooting and cannot remember what happened that night, court records show.

Chesimard, now going through Assata Shakur, escaped from prison and fled to Cuba. She remains on the FBI’s most wanted list.

The question before the Supreme Court was not Acoli’s guilt or innocence; it focused on whether the probation commission had followed the law in its assessment of Acoli.

“This is a decision of humanity and a recognition of the importance of the rule of law,” Afran said after the Supreme Court ruling. “Killing a police officer is always something we abhor, but the court here has said that once a man has shown that he has changed and he has put that history behind him, we must now give him the benefit of the rule of law. †

‘Rule of law required’

Acoli’s lawyers said their client had committed no felony during the past 25 years of his imprisonment, completed more than 100 programs and counseling sessions, and taught a course to younger inmates on “rational thinking and emotional control.”

The Supreme Court wrote that the probation commission was entitled to respect “but not blind respect” and failed to demonstrate the crimes Acoli feared committing at his age.

As despised by many for the notoriety of his crime, Acoli too has a right to be protected by the law – and to a fair and impartial administration of justice. That is what our commitment to the rule of law requires,” Judge Barry Albin wrote.

Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin, a Democrat whose office opposed Acoli’s release, reiterated those objections in an earlier statement. When Acoli was convicted, state law still allowed people who killed police officers on parole.

Will try to pronounce

Afran has described his client as “committed to the violent revolutionary movement of the 1960s and early 1970s,” but who has long since given up any intent to seek change other than peaceful means. And his life in prison for the past 40 years shows that.”

Afran said Acoli would remain an activist, “as far as his age and health allow him, and I’m pretty sure he will try to speak out on issues.”

Rosa Foerster, the widow of the fallen trooper, moved to Florida years ago. One self-identifying as Foerster’s cousin and a Florida Sheriff’s Sergeant wrote a reflection on Foerster’s Officer Down Memorial Page, commenting in part: “I think a person willing to kill a New Jersey State Trooper out of sheer hatred not present is a danger to the public? I miss you and think of you often.”

Leave a Comment