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Judge Tosses Convictions of Two in Malcolm X Killing

New investigation cleared Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2021 2:53 PM CST
Updated Nov 18, 2021 2:44 PM CST
2 Men Convicted of Killing Malcolm X Will Be Exonerated
Malcolm X addresses reporters at the Hotel Park-Sheraton in New York City on March 12, 1964.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) Update: A Manhattan judge on Thursday threw out the convictions of two men convicted of killing Malcolm X decades ago. Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam both wrongfully served years in prison before being released in the 1980s. A new investigation cleared the men, and even the admitted gunman says the pair were not involved. Our original story from Wednesday follows:

story continues below

The Manhattan district attorney's office says it is righting a wrong that's more than half-a-century old by seeking the exoneration of two men who spent decades in prison for the assassination of Malcolm X. Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and lawyers for the two men, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, say they expect the convictions to be thrown out at a hearing Thursday in New York State Supreme Court, reports the Washington Post. A 22-month investigation of the 1965 murder of the civil rights leader was sparked by a Netflix documentary that unearthed new evidence, reports the AP.

It found that prosecutors, the NYPD, and the FBI withheld evidence that could have cleared the two men, who were known at the time as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson. "These men did not get the justice that they deserved," Vance tells the New York Times. Aziz, now 83, was released from prison in 1985. Islam was released in 1987 and died in 2009. They were arrested days after Malcolm X was gunned down by three men in a New York City ballroom shortly after he began a speech. Mujahid Abdul Halim was arrested at the scene.

He testified that Aziz and Islam were not the other two gunmen and had nothing to do with the crime, but all three received life sentences. Halim was paroled in 2010. Vance's office says the review found that the FBI withheld evidence that pointed to other suspects and supported the men's alibis; indeed, a still-living witness verified that Aziz was home with an injured leg when the shooting occurred. "This wasn’t a mere oversight," says Deborah Francois, a lawyer for the two men. "This was a product of extreme and gross official misconduct." (Read more Malcolm X stories.)

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