NEW YORK — Two men convicted in the assassination of Malcolm X are set to be cleared after more than half a century, with prosecutors now saying authorities withheld evidence in the civil rights leader’s killing, according to a news report Wednesday.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam, who spent decades in prison for the crime, were being exonerated after a nearly two-year investigation by their lawyers and the Manhattan district attorney’s office. A court date is expected Thursday.
“These men did not get the justice that they deserved,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. told the newspaper.
One of the civil rights era’s most controversial and compelling figures, Malcolm X rose to fame as the Nation of Islam’s chief spokesperson, proclaiming the Black Muslim organization’s message at the time: racial separatism as a road to self-actualization. He famously urged Black people to claim civil rights “by any means necessary.”
He was gunned down as he began a speech in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom on Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965.
Aziz, Islam and a third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim — known at the time of the killing as Talmadge Hayer and later as Thomas Hagan — were convicted of murder in March 1966 and sentenced to life in prison.
Hagan said he was one of three gunmen who shot Malcolm X, but he testified that neither Aziz nor Islam were involved. They maintained throughout that they were innocent.
Hagan was paroled in 2010.
Aziz, who was called Norman 3X Butler at the time of the shooting, was released in 1985. He is now 83 years old.
Islam, formerly Thomas 15X Johnson, was released two years later and died in 2009.