2 men who served decades in prison for killing Malcolm X to be exonerated

The development follows a 22-month investigation into the case

Loading the player...

Two of the three men convicted of killing Malcolm X will have their convictions thrown out following a lengthy investigation into who killed the civil rights leader.

The development follows a 22-month investigation into the case that was conducted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the Innocence Project, which represents the two men, Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam. Investigators found that prosecutors, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the New York Police Department withheld key evidence that would have led to the men’s acquittal, per The New York Times.

“This wasn’t a mere oversight,” said Deborah Francois, a lawyer for the men. “This was a product of extreme and gross official misconduct.”

Malcolm X was gunned down in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom during a speech on Feb. 21, 1965.  Three members of the Nation of Islam were ultimately arrested and charged with the assassination. At the time, Mujahid Abdul Halim was known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan, Aziz was known as Norman 3X Butler, and Islam was known as Thomas 15X Johnson. All three were found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Malcolm X thegrio.com
Former Nation Of Islam leader and civil rights activist El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (aka Malcolm X and Malcolm Little) poses for a portrait on February 16, 1965, in Rochester, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Islam and Aziz maintained their innocence but were convicted despite the lack of physical evidence and the contradictory testimony of several eyewitnesses. The men spent decades in prison before Aziz, 83, was released in 1985. Islam was released in 1987 and died in 2009. Halim was reportedly granted parole in March 2010 and was released from prison a month later. 

“These men did not get the justice that they deserved,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said of Islam and Aziz. Both men are expected to be cleared Thursday, according to the report. 

Vance and the Innocence Project confirmed to NBC News that they would “move to vacate the wrongful convictions of two individuals for the murder of Malcolm X” on Thursday afternoon. 

The investigation did not identify who really killed Malcolm X. 

This latest development comes months after lawyers representing Malcolm X‘s estate requested that his case be reopened in light of new evidence that may reveal the conspiracy to have him killed, theGRIO reported

Malcolm X Quotes www.theGrio.com
circa 1962: American political activist and radical civil rights leader, Malcolm X (1925 – 1965) standing at a podium during a rally of African-American Muslims held in a Washington, DC arena. (Photo by Richard Saunders/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

According to ABC News, the family and attorney of former undercover NYPD officer Ray Wood disclosed the discovery of a death bed confession letter in November 2020. The letter allegedly states that the NYPD and the FBI conspired to ensure the killing of Minister X.

Last February, Netflix released the docuseries Who Killed Malcolm X, which chronicled historian Abdur-Rahman Muhammad’s years-long research to unravel inconsistencies in the Malcolm X murder case.

In the series, Muhammad worked to reveal evidence that two of the three men convicted for Malcolm X’s death were in fact not present at the Audubon on the day of this murder.

“It’s really pulled back the veil on this historic crime, that was really an open wound, in not just the African-American community, but the world community,” Muhammad said in an interview with PBS. “And, you know, the fundamental understanding of who pulled that shotgun, who were involved. Yes, we answer that question.”

Have you subscribed to the Grio podcasts, ‘Dear Culture’ or Acting Up? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!

Loading the player...