Two men convicted of killing Malcolm X are set to be exonerated this week, 55 years after the Black liberation leader was gunned down in Harlem.
The overturning of Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam –– known at the time of the killing as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, respectively –– comes after a 22-month investigation and, as reported by The New York Times, acknowledges years-long debate about the details of the Black leader’s killing on February 21, 1965.
The news outlet reported the men are set to be officially exonerated as early as Thursday (November 18) after each of them were tried and sentenced on what can best be described as shaky evidence brought forward by law enforcement.
Renewed interest in the case of Malcolm X’s killing was sparked following the release of an explosive Netflix documentary entitled, Who Killed Malcolm X?, led by historian-activist Abdur-Rahman Muhammad.
However, the nearly two-year official investigation did not reveal who prosecutors believe really killed the civil rights hero. It has also left questions unanswered about the long-believed involvement of local and federal law enforcement officers in the conspiracy to kill Malcolm X.
Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney apologized on behalf of law enforcement, who he said failed the two men convicted of Malcolm X’s killing.
The damage of those errors, he said in an interview, can’t be undone, “but what we can do is acknowledge the error, the severity of the error.”
Vance collaborated with the Innocence Project on the re-investigation along with civil rights attorney David Shanies.
Many of those involved in the murder trial –– lawyers, witnesses, investigators –– have since died. Critical documents in the case was lost and evidence, including the weapons used to shot Malcolm X as he began speaking at the Audubon Ballroom, were not able to be tested.
The re-investigation brought to the forefront evidence left out of the trial that –– had it been presented –– would have probably led to acquittal of Aziz, 83, who was released in 1985 and Islam who was released in 1987 and died in 2009. That evidence includes witness testimony backing up alibis for the men and tips about plans for the assassination.
“This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities,” Vance said. “These men did not get the justice they deserved.”
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