New York City agrees to settle lawsuits with two men acquitted of killing Malcom X

New York City agreed settlement of lawsuits filed by two men who were acquitted of murdering Malcolm X last year. The city will pay $26 million for the wrongful convictions of Mohammed Aziz and Khalil Islam, who spent decades in prison after being convicted of the 1965 murder.

New York state will also pay $10 million, according to the Associated Press.

“This settlement brings some measure of justice to people who spent decades in prison and carried the stigma of being falsely accused of murdering an iconic figure,” a city law department spokesman said in a statement to CBS News. “Based on our review, this office supports the opinion of former Manhattan District Attorney Vance, who stated, based on his investigation, that “there is one bottom line: Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam were wrongfully convicted of this the crime”.

David B. Shanies, an attorney representing Aziz and Islam’s estate, said the acquittals of the two men were “long overdue. New York City made the right decision by settling these lawsuits immediately and not prolonging the injustice. We are extremely grateful for the judge’s decision significant efforts to facilitate a fair and speedy resolution.”

Last year, judge in Manhattan dismissed the convictions of Aziz, now 84, and Islam, who died in 2009, after prosecutors said new evidence of witness intimidation and suppression of exculpatory evidence had undermined the case against the men. Then-Attorney General Cyrus Vance Jr. apologized for “serious, unacceptable violations of the law and the public trust” by law enforcement.

Sanies said settlement documents would be signed in the coming weeks and the New York probate court would have to approve the settlement for Islam’s estate. The total of $36 million will be split equally between Aziz and Islam’s estate.

Malcolm H
Muhammad Aziz, center, stands outside the courthouse with family members after his conviction for the assassination of Malcolm X was vacated, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in New York.

Seth Wenig/AP

Aziz and Islam, who maintained their innocence from the start in the 1965 killing at Upper Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, were paroled in the 1980s.

Malcolm X gained national prominence as the voice of the Nation of Islam, urging blacks to assert their civil rights “by any means necessary.” His autobiography, written with Alex Haley, remains a classic of modern American literature.

Near the end of Malcolm X’s life, he broke with the Black Muslim organization and, after a trip to Mecca, began to speak of the possibilities for racial unity. It earned him the ire of some in the Nation of Islam, who saw him as a traitor.

He was shot dead while beginning a speech on February 21, 1965. He was 39 years old.

Aziz and Islam, then known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, and a third man were convicted of murder in March 1966. They were sentenced to life in prison.

The third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim — also known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan — admitted to shooting Malcolm X, but said neither Aziz nor Islam were involved. The two offered alibi and no physical evidence linked them to the crime. The case was based on eyewitnesses, although there were inconsistencies in their testimony.

Attorneys for Aziz and Islam said in complaints that both Aziz and Islam were in their Bronx homes when Malcolm H was killed. They said Aziz spent 20 years in prison and more than 55 years living with hardship and indignity that involved his being unfairly labeled as the convicted murderer of one of the most important civil rights leaders in history.

Islam spent 22 years in prison and died still hoping to clear his name.

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