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Two men convicted of killing Malcolm X to be exonerated

An investigation found that the FBI and NYPD withheld evidence that could have led to Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam’s acquittal.

Malcolm X Bettmann Archive

Two men convicted of fatally shooting Malcolm X — Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam — are set to be exonerated, The New York Times reports. According to the outlet, the two men’s convictions are expected to be thrown out on Thursday (Nov. 18) after an investigation uncovered evidence that was previously withheld by the FBI and NYPD.

Attorneys representing Aziz and Islam and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. shared the news on Wednesday (Nov. 17) following a 22-month investigation into their conviction. Investigators found, NYT reports; that prosecutors, the NYPD and FBI withheld evidence from the civil rights leader’s murder that could have led to the two men’s acquittal.

The findings validate many people’s long-held belief that Aziz and Islam, who were known as Nation of Islam members Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson at the time, were innocent.

After Malcolm X’s assassination on Feb. 21, 1965; police arrested the two men and Nation of Islam member Talmadge Hayer. All three men were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. However, Aziz and Islam maintained their innocence and Hayer, who confessed to the crime, also said they were not involved.

Islam was released from prison in 1987, but passed away in 2009. Aziz was paroled in 1985 and Hayer was also paroled in 2010.

On Wednesday, the Manhattan D.A. said law enforcement failed the two men’s families by arresting them on questionable evidence.

“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 that they deserved.”

According to FBI documents, two undercover officers were in the crowd at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on the day of Malcolm X’s assassination. However, the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation found, the FBI never disclosed this information when Islam and Aziz were convicted.

Furthermore, NYPD files showed that a reporter received a tip the same day Malcolm X was killed, which was also never disclosed.

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

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