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NJ Supreme Court Denies Parole To Chesimard Accomplice In Trooper Killing

INSET: Sundiata Acoli , with Joanne Chesimard
INSET: Sundiata Acoli , with Joanne Chesimard Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT photos

A man who helped kill a New Jersey State Police Trooper in cold blood in 1973 cannot be released on parole, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Clark Edward Squire — a Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member who changed his name Sundiata Acoli — was convicted along with fugitive Joanne Chesimard for gunning down NJSP Trooper Werner Foerster during a New Jersey Turnpike stop.

Now 79, Acoli ( inset, above ) was denied parole in 2011 — a ruling that the state Appellate Division reversed three years later, contending that the Parole Board ignored evidence in Acoli’s favor and put excessive weight on a probation violation from decades ago.

Writing for the state's highest court, Justice Jaynee LaVecchia on Tuesday said the Appellate Division "acted prematurely in ordering Acoli’s parole release” -- not having an extensive final interview, for instance, as required under state law. The proceeding would have given survivors an opportunity to be heard, LaVecchia wrote.

Chesimard, 68 ( photo above ), has reared her head at times -- to thumb her nose at the U.S., it seems — offering interviews to Newsday, among others, and writing books while living in Cuba as Assata Shakur.

Jurors convicted Chesimard of first degree murder in 1977, along with other crimes connected with the shootout. Additional charges followed before she escaped from prison in 1979.

State Police several years ago increased the American bounty on her head to $2 million, the highest ever for a New Jersey fugitive. The FBI also made her the first woman on its list of most wanted terrorists.

Some say the bounty forced her to drop out of sight after living so openly that she listed her number in the phone book.

At about 12:45 a.m. on May 2, 1973, NJSP Trooper James Harper stopped a Pontiac Lemans with Vermont plates for having a broken tail light and “slightly exceeding” the speed limit on the Turnpike.

Inside was Chesimard, along with the driver, Zayd Malik Shakur (born James F. Costan), and Acoli.

Foerster pulled in behind as backup — barely 200 yards south of the Turnpike Authority administrative building at Exit 9.

Authorities said Acoli’s gun went off during a struggle with Foerster, wounding him, and that Chesimard took Foerster’s gun and finished the job by shooting him twice in the head as he lay on the ground.

This was after she shot NJSP Trooper James Harper, they said.

Shakur was shot in the battle and died at the scene.

Chesimard was caught five miles down the road across from the Joyce Kilmer Service area.

Headlines and spotlights followed her nine-week trial, during which Shakur was unable to explain how three clips of ammunition and 16 live shells had gotten into her shoulder bag.

The clincher was heard on tape, as Trooper Ronald Foster, the State Police radio operator, shouts into his microphone: “They just shot Harper! Be on the lookout for this car!” and “It is a Pontiac. It’s got one tail light.”

Jurors convicted Chesimard as an accomplice in the murders of both Foerster and Shakur — which New Jersey penalizes with lifetime prison terms.

She later was sentenced to 26 to 33 years in state prison, which were to be served consecutively with her mandatory life term.

It didn’t take long for Chesimard to bolt the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey, after three members of the BLA visiting her drew concealed .45-caliber pistols, seized two guards as hostages and commandeered a prison van.

Chesimard flew to Cuba in 1984.

Acoli, meanwhile, claimed he’d blacked out after being grazed by a bullet and couldn’t remember what happened.

A judge sentenced him in 1974 to life plus 24 to 30 years — a sentence that’s he been serving in Otisville, MD.

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