Black Police Groups Call for Release of Former Black Panther Member After 48 Years in Prison

A coalition of current and former Black police officers filed an amicus brief in the New Jersey Supreme Court on Aug. 23 to call for the release on parole of a former Black Panther member.

In the brief, four Black law enforcement groups said that former Black Panther member Sundiata Acoli should be granted parole after spending “more than half of his life in prison cells the size of a parking space, including nearly twenty years as a senior citizen.”

The groups described Acoli’s continued imprisonment as “an affront to racial justice.”

“Though first eligible for parole almost thirty years ago, and despite a significant record of personal development and rehabilitation during his incarceration, including no disciplinary infractions for at least the last 25 years, Mr. Acoli has been repeatedly denied parole and subject to lengthy future eligibility terms at each subsequent hearing,” the groups wrote, accusing the parole board of violating the law for refusing to release Acoli.

Acoli, 84, told British news outlet The Guardian that he was struggling with chronic degeneration of his hearing, eyesight, and mental and muscular capacity but was receiving “little or no medical treatment” in prison.

Acoli received a life sentence in 1974 for the death of New Jersey state trooper James Harper, who pulled over Acoli and other Black Panther members over a defective taillight which then led to a shootout.

The New Jersey Supreme Court is expected to consider the case later this year or early next year.

The Black law enforcement groups who filed the brief are the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, the Black Police Experience, and the Grand Council of Guardians.

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