New York, NY – Two of the three men convicted of the murder of civil right leader Malcolm X in 1965 will be exonerated by Manhattan’s top prosecutor on Thursday.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced on Nov. 16 that he “will move to vacate the wrongful convictions” of Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam on Nov. 17, NPR reported.
The controversial Nation of Islam leader was gunned down on stage in front of hundreds of people, including his pregnant wife and children, at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City on Feb. 21, 1965, NBC News reported.
Several men opened fire inside the ballroom and shot the civil rights leader as he stood making a speech.
Three members of the Nation of Islam were arrested for Malcom X’s murder: Mujahid Abdul Halim, who was previously known as Talmadge Hayer, Muhammad A. Aziz, who previously went by the name Norman 3X Butler, and Khalil Islam, who previously went by the name Thomas 15X Johnson), The Washington Post reported.
There is a long-standing conspiracy theory that the U.S. government was somehow involved in the Malcolm X’s death.
In 1966, Hayer confessed to killing the Nation of Islam leader and said that Aziz and Islam were innocent, The Washington Post reported.
However, he refused to name his co-conspirators, NPR reported.
In 1978, Hayer finally gave authorities the names of four men that he said he helped him assassinate Malcolm X.
But his testimony failed to sway officials and the judge refused to vacate the convictions of Aziz and Islam, NPR reported.
Hayer was paroled in 2010 after he served 45 years behind bars.
The 83-year-old Aziz is the only one of the three men convicted of Malcolm X’s assassination who is still alive, The Washington Post reported.
He was paroled in 1985 and has spent decades trying to clear his name.
“These innocent men experienced the agony of decades in prison for a crime they did not commit,” David Shanies, one of the attorneys on Aziz’s team, said in a statement released after news of the exonerations broke.
“They were robbed of their freedom in the prime of their lives and branded the killers of a towering civil rights leader,” Shanies added.
A Netflix documentary in 2020 called “Who Killed Malcolm X?” prompted the Manhattan district attorney to launch a new investigation into who killed the revered civil rights leader, NPR reported.
“The day of the murder, which was a Sunday morning, I was laying over the couch with my [injured] foot up and I heard it over the radio,” Aziz recalled in the documentary.
A doctor who treated him at the hospital that day took the stand in his defense at the trial and said Aziz was being treated when Malcolm X was killed, NPR reported.
Vance’s team investigated for 22 months and unearthed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents that cast doubt on the guilt of Aziz and Islam.
The district attorney said the information was available at the time of the trial but was withheld from both the prosecution and the defense, NPR reported.