On Sunday (Oct. 30), it was announced that two men who spent decades in prison for the 1965 assassination of human rights activist Malcolm X would receive settlements for their wrongful convictions. Their lawyer David Shanies told the media his clients would be granted $36 million for the injustice.
“Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam and their families suffered because of these unjust convictions for more than 50 years,” he said in a statement. Shanies continued, “The city recognized the grave injustices done here, and I commend the sincerity and speed with which the Comptroller’s Office and the Corporation Counsel moved to resolve the lawsuits.” Twenty-six million will come from the city of New York and another $10 million will come from the state.
ABC News obtained a copy of his statement, which added, “Police and prosecutorial misconduct cause tremendous damage, and we must remain vigilant to identify and correct injustices.” At the time of their exoneration, then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. expressed his remorse for the two men’s wrongful imprisonment for the killing of Malcolm X, calling it “serious, unacceptable violations of law and the public trust.” Islam passed away in 2009 and Aziz is now 84 years old.
Last year, prosecutors admitted that witness intimidation and suppression of exculpatory evidence caused the two men to be imprisoned. In addition to the statement from Shanies, a spokesperson for the New York City Law Department also announced they “stand by” the former district attorney’s decision. The department added that the settlement “brings some measure of justice to individuals who spent decades in prison and bore the stigma of being falsely accused of murdering an iconic figure.”
Malcolm X was shot and killed in Upper Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom while delivering a speech on Feb. 21, 1965. Although Mujahid Abdul Halim admitted to killing the activist, Aziz and Islam spent decades behind bars for the crime. The $36 million settlement will be split equally between Aziz and the estate of Islam.