Petition to Commute Sundiata Acoli’s Sentence

The Sundiata Acoli Freedom Campaign is asking that folks print off petitions calling for the commutation of Sundiata’s sentence, get them signed by people in your community/organization, and then send them in.

You can find the petition here (below is the language of the petition itself):

When petitions are filled out, you can return them to:

Florence Morgan

120-46 Queens Blvd.

Kew Gardens, New York 11415



To: The Honorable Philip D. Murphy

Governor of the State of New Jersey

We, undersigned residents of the State of the New Jersey, and of other states, hereby respectfully request that, pursuant to your powers under the New Jersey State Constitution and state statutes, you commute the sentence of Sundiata Acoli (formerly known as Clark Edward Squire) to time served.  Now 81 years old, and in declining health, Mr. Acoli has been incarcerated for forty-five years, has expressed regret and remorse for the crimes that he was convicted of, and since 1996 has maintained an exemplary prison record.

Born on January 14, 1937 in Decatur, Texas, Mr. Acoli was raised in Vernon, Texas. In 1956, Mr. Acoli graduated from Prairie View and A & M University of Texas with degree in mathematics and for the next thirteen years worked for various computer-oriented firms, mostly in the New York area. In the summer of 1964, Mr. Acoli did civil rights work and voter registration work in Mississippi, and in 1968 joined the Harlem branch of the Black Panther Party where he worked on issues such as housing, jobs, and police brutality. In 1969, Mr. Acoli, along with 21 other New York City Panther Party members were arrested on an array of conspiracy charges. Denied bail, Mr. Acoli was incarcerated for two years before he and all his co-defendants were acquitted of all charges after only two hours of jury deliberations.

Mr. Acoli’s current incarceration stems from a May 2, 1973 incident on the New Jersey Turnpike. While driving on the Turnpike, Mr. Acoli, with two other Panther Party members, Assata Shakur and Zayd Malik Shakur, were stopped by state troopers. A shoot -out ensued during which one state trooper, Werner Foerster was killed, and another state trooper, James Harper injured. Mr. Shakur was also killed. Ultimately, in 1974, Mr. Acoli was convicted of murder and other charges; and sentenced to an  aggregate sentence of life plus twenty-four to thirty years.  Tried separately, Ms. Shakur was convicted of similar charges, and similarly sentenced. In November 1979, Ms. Shakur escaped from prison and was subsequently granted political asylum in Cuba.

Mr. Acoli has appeared before the New Jersey State Parole Board on three occasions, and each time denied release notwithstanding his exemplary prison record since 1996. In particular, during his incarceration, Mr. Acoli has completed over 100 different programs for self-improvement and vocational trainings on topics such as computer, health, art, real estate, and industrial safety. He has also participated in numerous programs designed to alter the incarcerated person’s perspective and modify his or her behavior such as “Doing Time With The Right Mind,” Criminal Thinking,” and “Commitment to Change.” In addition, in July 2008, Mr. Acoli requested and began meeting twice a month with the psychology services staff to develop coping, self-help skills, and other skills relevant to community transition.

In conclusion, we respectfully urge that you commute Mr. Acoli’s  sentence to time served, and immediately release him. At 81, a father and grandfather, and in light of his exemplary prison record for the past twenty-two years, it is highly unlikely that if released, Mr. Acoli will commit  another crime.

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