“I deeply wish this law had been in place when Acoli was convicted in 1974,” Governor Murphy said in a statement. “Our men and women in uniform are heroes, and anyone who takes the life of a serving officer should remain behind bars until the end of their life.”
Soffiyah Elijah, a civil rights lawyer who defended Mr Acoli, praised the Supreme Court for “correcting the incorrect application of the law by the Parole Board”.
Ms Elijah said in a statement: ‘We appreciate and thank his thousands of supporters among lawyers, individuals and community organizations to those who submitted amicus briefs on his behalf in defense of his freedom; freedom that is rightfully his. We sincerely hope that Mr. Acoli’s freedom will bring attention to the thousands of former like him trapped in the New Jersey prison system.
On May 2, 1973, Mr. Acoli was driving a white Pontiac on the New Jersey Turnpike with two other members of the radical Black Liberation Army, James Costan and Joanne D. Chesimard. A soldier, James Harper, stopped the car around 1 a.m. after observing a broken tail light.
Private Foerster, a 34-year-old married officer who lived in Old Bridge, NJ, arrived on the scene as reinforcements.
Ms Chesimard, who at the time was a leading figure in the Black Liberation Army, fired the first shot, according to trial evidence, sparking a shootout between her, Private Harper and Mr Costan.
During the melee, Mr. Acoli attempted to grab Cavalier Foerster’s weapon, according to the ruling.
“During this physical struggle, Acoli claims Private Harper shot him, grating the top of his head and causing him to pass out,” the ruling reads. “According to Acoli, when he regained consciousness, Cavalier Foerster’s body was lying on the ground nearby and Acoli fled with Costan and Chesimard, both seriously injured.”