‘Who Killed Malcolm X?’: Manhattan DA Inspired By Netflix Documentary Set to Exonerate Two Men Convicted of Killing Malcolm X

Over the past year, news surrounding Malcolm X’s murder has recently come out. This big bang of information is expected to exonerate two men of the three who were convicted in 1966 of the Muslim leader’s death. Both men have maintained their innocence since their trial and were subjects of the Netflix film “Who Killed Malcolm X?” 

The 2020 documentary sparked new interest in the case and the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said after the film’s release he would revisit the case.

Malcolm X (left), Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (right) Photos: Getty

Malcolm X, who had changed his name to El-Hajj Malik before his assassination by three gunmen in a Manhattan auditorium in 1965, was a Black nationalist leader whose political voice shaped the views of Black America and radically shifted the climate of the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s.

Despite it being known that Malcolm X had received death threats from a number of entities, three men were identified as his murderers, but no wider conspiracy was uncovered.

Muhammad A. Aziz, 83, and Khalil Islam (who died in 2009), two of those convicted, have consistently stated that they did not murder him. (Mujahid Abdul Halim, unlike his co-defendants, was shot at the scene and apprehended, and his conviction is not affected by the new exonerations. Aziz and Islam were picked up after the slaying, and their alibis that they were not at the scene did not prevent their convictions.)

Vance has worked with the Innocence Project to free the one living man that he believes was wrongly convicted.

The Innocence Project, according to its website exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.”

The D.A.’s office reportedly launched a 22-month investigation into the case with the skill set of lawyers from the organization and the office of David Shanies. 

The collective found that both the FBI and the New York Police Department had key evidence regarding this murder that neither organization presented during the trial. The feds even had evidence that pointed to other people and not Aziz nor Islam. 

This evidence could have been vital to finding them (then known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson) innocent 55 years ago.

Another bit of evidence revealed by the then-prosecutor’s notes is that there were undercover police officers in the Audubon Ballroom on that fateful Feb. 21 night in 1965. The notes did not indicate if the FBI or the NYPD could have saved his life.

Although the men were released from prison (Aziz in 1985 and Islam in 1987), District Attorney Vance apologized on behalf of law enforcement for the travesty of justice that blanket their lives and their families. He said, “This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities.”

Vance continued, “These men did not get the justice that they deserved.”

This Thursday, Nov. 18, Vance will be calling for a “move to vacate the wrongful convictions of two individuals for the murder of Malcolm X.”

Finally, their names will be cleared.

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