2 Men Convicted in Malcolm X's Assassination Will Be Exonerated After Reinvestigation

Reinvestigation of Malcolm X’s murder began in February 2020 after a docuseries posits that two of the three men convicted, Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam, were innocent

Muhammad Abdul Aziz Norman; Khalil Islam Thomas
Photo: AP/Shutterstock; Harvey Lippman/AP/Shutterstock

Two of the three men who were found guilty of the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X are expected to have their convictions cleared Thursday following a two-year reinvestigation, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

Malcolm X was killed while standing at a podium, moments away from giving a speech, inside the Audubon Ballroom in N.Y.C. Three men were convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison: Mujahid Abdul Halim, Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam. (Islam died in 2009 and Aziz and Halim were released on parole in 1985 and 2010, respectively.)

Aziz and Islam have always maintained their innocence, and Halim, who admitted to his role in the crime, backed up their claims in his 1966 trial, CNN reports.

On Wednesday, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. tweeted that his office would join Aziz and Islam's attorneys, civil rights lawyer David Shanies and the Innocence Project, on Thursday in asking a judge to clear their convictions.

The reinvestigation found that the FBI and New York Police Department withheld key evidence that would likely have led to the two men's acquittal, The New York Times reports.

Vance Jr. apologized on behalf of law enforcement for "failing" Aziz and Islam during an interview with the Times, noting that though they can't fix their failures, they can "acknowledge the error."

Malcolm X, New York, United States - 21 May 1964

"This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities," Vance Jr. told the outlet. "These men did not get the justice that they deserved."

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

In a statement shared to PEOPLE by his attorneys, Aziz thanked his family and lawyers for their support while attempting to prove his innocence for decades. He also shared that he is "glad" that others "are finally seeing the truth we have all known."

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"The events that led to my conviction and wrongful imprisonment should never have happened. Those events were the result of a process that was corrupt to its core - one that is all too familiar - even in 2021," Aziz told PEOPLE.

"I am an 83-year-old man who was victimized by the criminal justice system, and I do not know how many more years I have to be creative," he continued. "However, I hope the same system that was responsible for this travesty of justice also takes responsibility for the immeasurable harm it caused me."

In February 2020, prosecutors first announced they were reopening the investigation into Malcolm X's assassination following the release of a docuseries about the 1965 killing.

The six-part Who Killed Malcolm X? posits that Aziz and Islam were innocent and were not even present when the civil rights activist was fatally shot.

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