AP – Posted: 09/29/2014 12:55 pm EDT Updated: 09/29/2014 12:59 pm
A man convicted in the shooting death of a New Jersey state trooper in a crime that still provokes strong emotion among law enforcement more than 40 years later was ordered released on parole by a state appeals court Monday.
Sundiata Acoli was known as Clark Edward Squire when he was convicted of the 1973 slaying of state trooper Werner Foerster during a stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. Now in his mid-70s, he was denied parole most recently in 2011, but the appellate judges reversed that ruling Monday.
In a 28-page opinion, the panel wrote that the parole board ignored evidence favorable to Acoli and gave undue consideration to past events such as a probation violation that occurred decades earlier.
One of the three people in the car when it was stopped was Joanne Chesimard, who also was convicted of Foerster’s slaying, but eventually escaped to Cuba and is now known as Assata Shakur. Last year, state and federal authorities announced a $2 million reward for information leading to her capture, and the FBI made her the first woman on its list of most wanted terrorist.
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For the first time, a woman has been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list: Joanne Chesimard. The FBI and the state of New Jersey are now offering $2 million for information leading to her capture.
Chesimard was already wanted for several felonies, including bank robbery, when she was accused of killing New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster execution-style 40 years ago this month. She was convicted in 1977 and served prison time but escaped in 1979 by using a prison van in a dramatic jailbreak. By 1984, she surfaced in Cuba and was granted asylum by Fidel Castro. She remains there to this day.
To her supporters, Joanne Chesimard is Assata Shakur, unfairly targeted and convicted by the United States government. She has also become something of a cultural hero. Not only is she the step-aunt and godmother of rapper Tupac Shakur, but she has written an autobiography and was featured in a documentary while in Cuba. Hip-hop and rap artists have sung about her cause, including “A Song for Assata” by the rapper Common.
“It’s unfortunate that someone involved in the murder of an officer, kidnappings, hostage takings and robberies in a 14-year span is revered by a segment of society,” said Aaron Ford, the special agent in charge at the FBI’s Newark division, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour.
“For us, justice never sleeps, justice never rests,” Ford continued. “We’re looking to bring her to justice because she committed a heinous act. She is a member of an organization which espoused hate against the U.S. government.”