The city of New York has agreed to pay $26 million to settle claims brought on behalf of two men who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to decades in prison after being found not guilty of killing Malcolm X in 1965.
The additional $10 million will come from the state of New York. On Sunday, the settlements were confirmed by the men’s lawyer, David Shanies.
In an email, Shanies stated, “Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam, and their families suffered due to these unfair convictions for more than 50 years.”
The City acknowledged the grave injustices committed here, and I applaud the honesty and promptness with which the Corporation Counsel and the Comptroller’s Office acted to settle the claims.
The settlements, according to Shanies, are a warning that “police and prosecutorial malfeasance can cause tremendous damage, and we must be vigilant to discover and redress injustices.”
Aziz, now 84, and Islam, who passed away in 2009, had their convictions overturned by a Manhattan judge last year after prosecutors claimed that fresh evidence of witness coercion and the suppression of favorable evidence had damaged their case.
Then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. expressed regret for the “severe, unforgivable abuses of law and the public trust” committed by law enforcement.
The financial agreement “brings some measure of justice to individuals who spent decades in prison and bore the stigma of being falsely accused of murdering an iconic figure,” according to a spokesperson for the New York City Law Department, which stated Sunday that it “stands by” Vance’s opinion that the men were wrongfully convicted.
The settlement agreements will be signed over the coming weeks, according to Shanies, and the New York court that oversees probate cases will need to approve the settlement for Islam’s estate. Aziz and the estate of Islam will each receive a portion of the entire $36 million.
In the 1980s, Aziz and Islam were released from prison after maintaining their innocence throughout the 1965 slaying at the Audubon Ballroom in Upper Manhattan.
His autobiography, written by Alex Haley, is still regarded as a classic piece of contemporary American literature.
Malcolm X rose to national notoriety as the voice of the Nation of Islam, urging Black people to assert their civil rights “by any means necessary.”
Malcolm X left the Black Muslim group toward the end of his life and, after visiting Mecca, began discussing the possibility of racial harmony. He attracted the wrath of specific Nation of Islam members, who viewed him as a traitor.
He was killed on February 21, 1965, while starting a speech. He was 39.
In March 1966, Aziz, Islam, and a third man were found guilty of murder. At the time, their names were Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson.
They received life in a jail sentence.
The third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim, also known as Thomas Hagan and Talmadge Hayer, acknowledged shooting Malcolm X but denied involvement from Aziz or Islam.
No tangible evidence connected the two, who both provided alibis, to the crime. Although there were contradictions in the eyewitnesses’ testimony, their testimony was the key to the case.
Aziz and Islam’s attorneys claimed in allegations that they were both at their Bronx houses when Malcolm X was killed.
According to them, Aziz served 20 years in prison and endured more than 55 years of hardship and humiliation due to being wrongfully identified as the manslaughter of one of the most significant civil rights activists in history.
Islam served 22 years in prison before passing away, still seeking justice.