Muhammad Aziz, one of the two men who last year were exonerated in the 1965 killing of civil rights leader Malcolm X, has filed a lawsuit seeking $40 million in compensation from New York for the wrongful conviction.
Last November, a judge exonerated Aziz, 84, and Khalil Islam, two of the three men convicted of the killing. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance had found after an almost two-year investigation that authorities withheld evidence in the trial of Aziz and Islam, the New York Times reported.
Aziz and Islam always maintained their innocence in the assassination. Islam died in 2009 but Aziz continued to fight to clear his record. He is now suing for malicious prosecution, denial of due process rights and government misconduct, according to BBC.
Malcolm X was speaking at an Organization of Afro-American Unity event at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965, when a group of men suddenly rushed to the podium and fatally shot him several times. Three members of the political and religious group the Nation of Islam were arrested — Islam, then known as Thomas 15X Johnson; Aziz, then known as Norman 3X Butler; and Mujahid Abdul Halim.
They were held responsible for the shooting and sentenced to life in prison in 1966. Aziz was a 26-year-old father of six when he was arrested. He spent 20 years in prison for the murder and was paroled in 1985.
Halim admitted to playing a role in the assassination but maintained that Aziz and Islam were not involved in it, according to the Innocence Project. Halim in 1978 disclosed his co-conspirators in the assassination. He identified four other men he said were involved. However, a judge at the time rejected a motion to vacate Aziz’s and Islam’s convictions, the Innocence Project said.
Vance opened an investigation into the case following a Netflix documentary series titled “Who Killed Malcolm X?” that raised doubts about the convictions. Vance’s investigation found that key physical evidence and documents were lost over the years. What is more, many investigators, witnesses and potential suspects have since died and the murder weapons could no longer be tested, The New York Times reported.
FBI documents also included information that implicated other suspects and “pointed away” Aziz and Islam, The New York Times added.
“This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities,” Vance told the Times. “These men did not get the justice that they deserved.”
Recently, a confession letter written by a former Black New York Police Department (NYPD) cop on his deathbed was released. The letter alleged that the department and the FBI played a role in the assassination of Malcolm X.