Two men convicted in the murder of prolific civil rights activist Malcolm X have been exonerated after an almost two-year investigation.
Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam were convicted along with another man named Thomas Hagan in the February 21st, 1965 assassination of Malcolm X during his speech at Audubon Ballroom in New York City.
Hagan admitted that he was involved in the murder but testified that neither Aziz nor Islam had anything to do with it. He even named the men who conspired with him to kill X, but they were never charged. Despite his confession, all three men were sentenced to life in prison in 1966.
Aziz was paroled in 1985. Islam was released in 1987 but died in 2009. Hagan was the last to be paroled in 2010 but is not eligible for exoneration, as he confessed to helping kill X.
The men’s names were cleared after decades of speculation prompted a 22-month investigation that found that authorities mishandled the case from the start. For years, many have believed that the government played a role in X’s murder due to his radical views on the pursuit of Black freedom.
Earlier this year, X’s daughters asked that their father’s case be reopened after a deathbed letter from a former policeman who assisted in the investigation in 1965 claimed the NYPD and the FBI worked together to murder X.
Aziz, who is being represented by Shanies Law Office in collaboration with the Innocence Project, says that he was at home on the day X was murdered. He heard the news of the murder on his radio.
The now 83-year-old says he is glad to have the truth “officially recognized” but hopes that the justice system takes “responsibility for the immeasurable harm it caused me.”
Prosecutor Cyrus Vance Jr. apologized on behalf of law enforcement.
“This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities,” he stated. “These men did not get the justice that they deserved.”
— Cyrus Vance, Jr. (@ManhattanDA) November 17, 2021