New York agrees to settle lawsuits against two men acquitted of killing Malcolm X

New York agreed resolve court cases filed by two men who were acquitted of murdering Malcolm X last year. The city will pay $26 million for the wrongful convictions of Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, who spent decades in prison after being convicted of murder in 1965.

New York State will also pay $10 million, according to the Associated Press.

“This settlement brings some measure of justice to individuals who spent decades in prison and carried the stigma of being falsely accused of murdering an iconic figure,” a spokesperson for the city’s legal department said in a statement to CBS News. “Based on our review, this office agrees with former Manhattan District Attorney Vance, who stated based on his investigation that “there is one final conclusion: Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam were wrongly convicted of this crime.”

David B. Shanis, an attorney representing Aziz and Islam’s estate, said the acquittal of the two men was “long overdue. New York made the right decision by promptly settling these lawsuits and not prolonging the injustice. We are very grateful for the judge’s significant efforts to promote a just and a quick solution.”

Last year, a Manhattan judge convictions were removed Aziza, now 84, and Islama, who died in 2009, after prosecutors said new evidence of witness intimidation and the suppression of exculpatory evidence undermined the case against the men. Then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. apologized for “serious, unacceptable violations of the law and public trust” by law enforcement.

Shainis said settlement documents will be signed in the next few weeks and a New York probate court will have to approve the settlement of Islam’s estate. A total of $36 million will be split equally between Aziz and Islam’s estate.

Malcolm X
Muhammad Aziz, center, stands outside a courthouse with family members after his conviction in the assassination of Malcolm X was overturned, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in New York.

Seth Wenig/AP


Aziz and Islam, who have maintained their innocence since the beginning of the 1965 murder at the Audubon Ballroom in Upper Manhattan, were released on parole in the 1980s.

Malcolm X rose to national prominence as the voice of the Nation of Islam, urging black people to assert their civil rights “by any means necessary.” His autobiography, written with Alex Haley, remains a classic of modern American literature.

Near the end of Malcolm X’s life, he broke with the Black Muslim organization and, after a trip to Mecca, began to speak of the potential for racial unity. This drew the ire of some in the Nation of Islam, who saw him as a traitor.

He was shot dead beginning a speech on February 21, 1965. He was 39 years old.

Aziz and Islam, then known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, and a third man were convicted of the murder in March 1966. They were sentenced to life in prison.

A third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim — also known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan — admitted to shooting Malcolm X, but said neither Aziz nor Islam were involved. Both offered alibi, and no physical evidence linked them to the crime. The case rested on eyewitnesses, although there were contradictions in their testimony.

Attorneys for Aziz and Islam said in complaints that both Aziz and Islam were in their Bronx homes when Malcolm X was killed. They said Aziz spent 20 years in prison and lived for more than 55 years with the hardship and humiliation of being wrongly convicted of murdering one of history’s most important human rights defenders.

Islam spent 22 years in prison and died hoping to clear his name.

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