On Thursday, the official record for one of America’s most important political assassinations will be rewritten. The Manhattan district attorney will enter a courtroom to request that a judge vacate the convictions in two men convicted of Malcolm X’s murder more than a century ago.
A 22-month review jointly conducted by the district attorney’s office and lawyers for the two men, Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam, found what historians and scholars had long known: that the case against them was dubious from the start, based on conflicting witness testimony and no physical evidence.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office, the New York Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation all withheld evidence pointing to different suspects that would have likely led to the men’s acquittal, the review found.
The verdicts will be thrown out in a historic correction of injustice, 55 year after they were convicted. Mr. Aziz (83 years old) will be present in court and is expected make a statement. He was released from prison on August 15, 1985. In 1987, Mr. Islam was released from prison and he died in 2009 at the age of 74. His relatives are also expected in court.
Mujahid Abdul Haim, a third man, was also found guilty. His conviction is still in effect. He confessed that he had committed the murder but maintained that the other men were innocent.
But the wrongful convictions allowed the other true assassins to escape accountability, compounding the tragedy of a killing that silenced one America’s most influential Black leaders, whose words and ideas still reverberate in contemporary social-justice movements.
Historical historians claim that the actual assassins are dead. This includes witnesses who testified, and the officers who handled the case.
Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Manhattan’s district attorney, launched the review. He apologized for it on Wednesday in an interview with The New York Times. After meeting with Mr. Aziz from the Innocence Project as well as Shanies Law Office lawyers, he accepted the case in January 2020.
“This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities,” Mr. Vance said in an interview. “These men did not get the justice that they deserved.”
The men were known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson in 1966 when they were convicted and branded as the killers of Malcolm X, who was eulogized by the actor Ossie Davis as “our Black shining prince.” Their convictions rested entirely on the testimony of eyewitnesses who gave conflicting and inconsistent testimony, and there were no records of the identification procedures the police had used, the re-investigation found.
The investigation examined witness and informant accounts, conversations between police and prosecutors about undercover officers, and a wide range of documents. Some of these documents were newly discovered, while others were known to journalists, historians, and other enthusiasts who sought the truth. Some key pieces of evidence, such as the shotgun that caused the fatal blast, were missing.
The review has cleared the names of Mr. Aziz (the enforcers of the Nation of Islam) and Mr. Muhammad (the assassin).
Though it found no evidence the killing was orchestrated by the government — a popular conspiracy theory — it did not answer broader questions about the role of the Nation’s leadership, the police and the federal government in the assassination. Investigators’ inability to ascertain the answers to those unknowns adds fresh grist to calls for a broader federal investigation.
Source: NY Times