Two Convicted in Death of Malcolm X to Be Exonerated After Review Shows Police Errors

Two men convicted in the assassination of Malcolm X are expected to be cleared after 55 years on Thursday, according to a report on Wednesday.

The New York Times reported that the Manhattan district attorney and the lawyers for the two men—Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam—said the convictions will be thrown out during a Thursday court hearing.

A nearly two-year investigation by the men's lawyers and the district attorney's office resulted in the exoneration.

"These men did not get the justice that they deserved," District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. told the newspaper. Vance first indicated he would re-open the case following the early 2020 release of a Netflix documentary that examined Malcolm X's murder.

Malcolm X
Two men found convicted in 1966 for the death of Malcolm X will reportedly have their names cleared on Thursday. This undated photo shows Malcolm X (C) outside at an unspecified location. Getty

Aziz and Islam spent decades in prison for the crime. Aziz, 83, was released in 1985. Two years later, Islam was released, and he died in 2009. At the time of their convictions, they were known as Norman 3X Butler (Aziz) and Thomas 15X Johnson (Islam).

Malcolm X was gunned down on February 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem as he was set to make a speech. At the time, he was one of the country's most influential Black leaders, and his death became one of the most infamous moments during the civil rights era.

Right before he began to speak at the Audubon Ballroom, three men rushed to the stage with gun. Malcolm X, 39, was shot in front of his pregnant wife and three of his children.

One of the suspected gunmen, Mujahid Abdul Halim, was taken into custody that night. In the following days, Aziz and Islam were also arrested. All three men were members of the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm X had left the Nation of Islam a year prior to his shooting death. On the night of the shooting, he was going to speak about a new group he had founded called the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Halim confessed to the shooting during the trial and claimed Aziz and Islam were innocent. Aziz and Islam also maintained their innocence, and they both offered alibis and testimony from people saying they weren't involved.

Witnesses claimed all three were responsible for the Malcolm X's death. The New York Times wrote those statements were contradictory and said no physical evidence could tie Aziz or Islam to the crime.

All three men were found guilty of murder on March 11, 1966, and sentenced to life in prison a month later.

Vance began looking into the original investigation following the release of Netflix's Who Killed Malcolm X? in February, 2020. He eventually concluded that Aziz and Islam were innocent, but a new suspect had emerged: William Bradley, a fellow member of the Nation of Islam. Bradley, however, died in 2018, and The New York Times said his lawyer denied that he was involved in the murder.

Newsweek contacted Vance, as well as the attorneys for Aziz and Islam, for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.