Muhammad Aziz was a 26-year-old father of six when New York prosecutors convicted him for the 1965 murder of Malcolm X. He spent 20 years in prison before being released on parole in 1985. However, the conviction was dropped last year, citing “newly discovered evidence.”
Khalil Islam was also wrongfully convicted of the crime. Both men were members of the Nation of Islam. Islam served 22 years in prison before he was released in February 1987. He was pardoned last November but sadly passed away in 2009. “Right now, this is great, but not so great at the same time,” Shahid Johnson, Islam’s son, said during a press conference. “I am happy, but there’s still sadness. That’s how I feel.”
On top of the lack of physical evidence and contradicting statements from prosecution witnesses, Talmadge Hayer was caught on the scene and confessed to killing the civil rights leader. He testified at trial that Aziz and Islam were not involved in the crime and named four other culprits in an affidavit.
Aziz fired off a lawsuit against New York state for malicious prosecution, denial of due process rights, and government misconduct. David Shanies, an attorney representing Aziz and Islam’s estates, said, “Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for decades – 42 years between them – as the result of outrageous government misconduct and violations of their constitutional rights.” He continued, “Justice delayed for far too long is justice denied. Mr. Aziz just turned 84, and Mr. Islam tragically died before seeing his name cleared.”
Malcolm X was gunned down one year after splitting with the Nation of Islam in 1964. When three gunmen approached the podium and opened fire, he was preparing to address a crowd at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.