Sundiata Acoli v. New Jersey State Parole Board, 250 N.J. 431 (2022)


Raymond M. Brown argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court on behalf of amicus curiae ACDL-NJ in a case involving Sundiata Acoli, age 85, who had been imprisoned for 49 years after being convicted for his role in the murder of a state trooper in 1973. Despite the fact that he had been a model inmate and infraction-free for 25 years, completed over 100 courses and counseling sessions, and received numerous expert reports stating there was not a substantial likelihood that he would commit a crime, the Parole Board repeatedly denied his right to parole.

The NJ Supreme Court ordered him to be released to his family to live out the rest of his life on parole. Citing a New Jersey Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Gary S. Stein (Ret.), special counsel at Pashman Stein Walder Hayden P.C., the Court said the Parole Board’s discretionary power is not unlimited or absolute. It found that the Board did not apply the proper standards in ascertaining whether Mr. Acoli was entitled to parole. Justice Albin’s opinion stated, “We are not unmindful of the passions aroused by a sensational case of this nature and the immense pressures that come to bear on dutiful public officials. But neither government agencies nor our courts can bow to public outrage in enforcing the law. Even the most scorned member of our society is entitled to be sheltered by the protection of the law, no matter how hard and vengeful the winds of public opinion may blow.” CJ Griffin coauthored the brief.

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