A Black man wrongly convicted of murdering Malcolm X is suing New York state for $20 million.
Muhammed Aziz, now 83, spent 20 years behind bars on a first-degree murder charge in Malcolm X’s death. He was convicted alongside two other men, Mujahid Halim and Khalil Islam, in 1966.
Aziz was released in 1985. Islam was released in 1987 and died in 2009.
“As a result of his wrongful conviction and imprisonment, Mr. Aziz spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and more than 55 years living with the hardship and indignity attendant to being unjustly branded as a convicted murderer of one of the most important civil rights leaders in history,” the lawsuit filed Tuesday reads.
Halim testified during the trial that he shot Malcom X and that neither of the two other men had anything to do with it. He was released in 2010.
Malcolm X was killed on Feb. 21, 1965, while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York’s Manhattan borough.
New York County Supreme Court administrative judge Ellen Biben granted a motion to vacate Aziz’s conviction in November. The judge also vacated Islam’s conviction.
“I regret that this court cannot fully undo the serious miscarriages of justice in this case and give you back the many years that were lost,” Biben said in the ruling.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Innocence Project jointly re-investigated Malcolm X’s murder and uncovered FBI and NYPD documents that had been hidden from the prosecution and the defense.
The district attorneys office launched the investigation after a Netflix documentary “Who Killed Malcolm X?” raised questions about the murder.
“The FBI had eyewitness testimony from presumably the nine informants that were in the room that day about who did the crime,” the documentary’s producer Phil Bertelsen told CBS.
“Full descriptions of the men, and particularly the man who wielded the shotgun. That was information that was not given to the NYPD,” Bertelsen said.
No physical evidence has ever implicated Aziz or Islam in the murder. Each man also had an alibi that placed them away from the scene of the crime.
“The case against them rested solely on highly contradictory and implausible eyewitness testimony,” according to the Innocence Project.
“My wrongful conviction was a terrible injustice that resulted from the deliberate and dishonest actions of corrupt officials,” Aziz said after his sentence was vacated.
“It has caused unspeakable harm to my family and to me. The lost time and relationships with my family and loved ones can never be recovered.”
Malcolm X’s 56-year-old daughter Malikah Shabazz was found unconscious by her daughter in their Brooklyn home last month, days after the convictions against Islam and Aziz were vacated. Officials said her death appeared to be of natural causes.
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