NEW YORK (AP) – Two men convicted of the murder of Malcolm X are set to be acquitted after more than half a century, and prosecutors now say authorities withheld evidence of the murder of the civil rights leader, according to a report Wednesday.
The New York Times newspaper reported Wednesday that Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam, who spent decades in prison for the crime, would be exonerated after a nearly two-year investigation by their attorneys and the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The hearing date is expected to be announced on Thursday.
“These men did not get the justice they deserved,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. told the outlet.
Vance tweeted that the prosecution, the Innocence Project and a law firm will work to overturn the convictions, and will release more details on Thursday.
One of the most controversial and charismatic figures of the civil rights era, Malcolm X rose to fame as the leading spokesman for the Nation of Islam, an organization of black Muslims that proclaimed that racial separatism is a path to self-realization. He became famous for urging the black population to demand their rights “by any means necessary.”
He was shot and killed while opening a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on February 21, 1965.
Aziz, Islam and a third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim – known at the time of the murder as Talmadge Hayer and later as Thomas Hagan – were convicted of murder in March 1966 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Hagan say he was one of three gunmen to shoot Malcolm X, but he testified that neither Aziz nor Islam were involved. The two men, then known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, claimed their innocence throughout.
“Thomas 15 Johnson and Norman 3X Butler had nothing to do with this crime,” Hagan said in an affidavit in 1977.