Over 50 years later, prosecutors say authorities withheld evidence proving the two men’s innocence.
Fifty-five years after Muhammad Aziz and the late Khalil Islam were convicted for their alleged involvement in the assassination of Malcolm X, the two men are expected to be exonerated later this week. Following a 22-month investigation conducted by their attorneys along with the district attorney’s office, prosecutors are now saying that officials withheld evidence at the time of the arrests. A court date has been scheduled for Thursday.
“These men did not get the justice that they deserved,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. told The New York Times.
Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, was gunned down on Feb. 21, 1965, during a speaking event at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. Aziz and Islam were arrested and convicted alongside Mujahid Abdul Halim, then known as Talmadge Hayer and later as Thomas Hagan. Aziz and Islam have consistently maintained their innocence for decades.
Islam died in 2009, but Aziz, who is now 81 years old, continued to declare his innocence. In light of information revealed in a recent documentary series, Who Killed Malcolm X, the Innocence Project launched a new investigation with David Shanies of David B. Shanies Law Office and the Conviction Integrity Program of the New York County District Attorney’s Office to clear the names of the two.
“We are grateful that District Attorney Vance quickly agreed to conduct a review of the conviction of Muhammad Aziz. Given the historical importance of this case and the fact that our client is 81 years old, we are especially encouraged that Mr. Vance has assigned two highly respected prosecutors, Peter Casolaro and Charles King, to work on this re-investigation,” the Innocence Project and David B. Shanies Shanies Law Office said in a joint statement.
“Mr. Casolaro did extraordinary work on the case of the Exonerated Five and Mr. King is an experienced member of the Conviction Integrity Program. We look forward to working cooperatively with them to see that justice is done,” the statement continued.
According to the Innocence Project as well as the documentary series, Aziz had an alibi for the time of the crime and there was no evidence to tie him to the event. At the time, Aziz was said to be at home caring for a recent leg injury. Aziz had multiple alibi witnesses attest to his whereabouts as well as a doctor from the Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, who treated Aziz hours before Malcolm X ever took the stage.
“The day of the murder, which was a Sunday morning, I was laying over the couch with my foot up and I heard it over the radio,” Aziz recalled in the series.
Prosecutors were able to tie Halim to the shooting, but Halim also testified that Aziz and Islam had nothing to do with the assassination.
“I just want to testify that Butler [Aziz] and Johnson [Islam] had nothing to do with it … I was there, I know what happened and I know the people who were there,” Halim said.
News Source: Blavity. Written Credits to: BreAnna Bell