Sundiata Acoli, now 85, is home after 49 years in prison for murdering a New Jersey trooper.
Many reported that he went before the state parole board four times to no avial. Sundiata received a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years and became eligible for release in 1993 because of good behavior. Since then, he has awaited this moment.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and the law enforcement community opposed the release of Acoli. Many have continued to point to “inconsistencies” in his account of the murder. Acoli stood firm in the fact that he believes he blacked out and does not recall shooting the trooper.
However, the New Jersey supreme court disagreed, saying the parole board’s job is not to determine who Acoli was at the time of the murder but rather who he has become. The 3-to-2 ruling cited the Parole Act of 1979. This says that inmates shall be released when they are eligible, unless there is a preponderance of the evidence showing a substantial likelihood they will commit another crime.
Many who support Acoli say he’s already paid his debt and will not pose a threat to society.
He has early-stage dementia and was hospitalized due to COVID-19 last year. He is headed to New York to live with his daughter.
“It’s time now for Mr. Acoli to live the rest of his life in the loving care of his family and community,” said civil rights attorney Soffiyah Elijah, one of Acoli’s primary advocates.