Vile decision by NJ Supreme Court allows cop killer to go free (Opinion)
One of the most high-profile murders of a law enforcement officer to date has taken a sad turn.
In 1973, New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster was shot to death in a traffic stop. It's the same case that involved JoAnne Chesimard who was among those convicted in the killing and who escaped custody and fled to Cuba where she hides out to this day.
Another convicted of the murder was Sundiata Acoli. Like Chesimard, he was a Black Liberation Army activist.
He is now 85 years old and has been denied parole eight times over the decades since being incarcerated for his role in the fatal NJ Turnpike shootout.
Now the state Supreme Court has stepped in and overturned the parole board's last decision.
Writing for the majority in the 3-2 ruling, Justice Barry Albin wrote:
"In light of Acoli’s verbal renunciation of violence as an acceptable way to achieve social change; more than two decades infraction-free in the federal prison system; the multitude of programs and counseling sessions he completed; his honor status as an inmate; his acquisition of vocational skills; and his advanced age, it is difficult to imagine what else might have persuaded the board that Acoli did not present a substantial likelihood to reoffend."
This is a killer who didn't express any remorse for Foester's murder for years. A killer who at his last hearing still wasn't accepting responsibility for the murder by theorizing the trooper could have been killed by "friendly fire." Interesting theory, but even if true it would have been friendly fire that never would have happened without the shootout being started by those in the passenger vehicle.
The state attorney general and Gov. Phil Murphy have both denounced the decision. Allow me to add myself to that list.
This is disgraceful.
Werner Foerster was only 34 years old when he was gunned down in the line of duty. He survived being a veteran of the Vietnam War only to be killed here. He lived in Old Bridge, NJ. He had a wife and a 3-year-old boy.
What these cop killers really deserved was the death penalty. Acoli ought to feel glad he escaped that fate and he never should be free. The state Supreme Court sees otherwise, saying he's unlikely to reoffend. Is that the only consideration? It shouldn't be.
Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin pointed out in reaction to the ruling,
"Under New Jersey law today, if an individual murders a law enforcement officer on duty he is never eligible for parole—a decision that reflects the heinous nature of that crime."
But that wasn't the law when Foerster was killed. And how does the NJ Supreme Court act as a replacement parole board? I see nothing in their ruling to indicate any legal basis other than that three justices simply disagreed with the board's decision.
In fact, Justice Lee Solomon in a dissenting opinion, says the Supreme Court has undermined the authority of the parole board.
“We consider that decision a disrespect to our fundamental principles of appellate review and a grave injustice to the victim, State Trooper Werner Foerster, and his family,” he wrote.
Of course Acoli's supporters are celebrating this despicable ruling.
Soffiyah Elijah, a civil rights attorney, said, “It’s time now for Mr. Acoli to live the rest of his life in the loving care of his family and community."
If only NJ State Trooper Werner Foerster had been allowed to live the rest of his life in the loving care of his wife and little boy.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.
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