A man who was exonerated last year for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X is suing New York City for $40 million after spending two decades behind bars for the infamous crime.
Muhammad Aziz, 84, had his attorneys file the complaint in a Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday, citing his wrongful conviction in the murder of the civil rights leader, who was gunned down at the Audubon Ballroom in Upper Manhattan at just 39-years-old, according to the Associated Press.
A second man who was wrongfully convicted in the assassination, Khalil Islam, had an additional complaint filed on behalf of his estate. The National Registry of Exonerations reports Islam spent 22 years in prison before passing away in 2009.
20 Years In Prison And 55 Years Wrongly Branded As Killer Of Civil Right’s Leader
Aziz’s complaint state that not only was he subject to the 20 years in prison, he was also “unjustly branded” as the convicted killer of “one of the most important civil rights leaders in history” for 55 years.
“(Aziz) spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and more than 55 years living with the hardship and indignity attendant to being unjustly branded as a convicted murderer of one of the most important civil rights leaders in history” Aziz’s complaint read.
Aziz and Islam, known at the time as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, and a third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim, were convicted of Malcolm X’s murder in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison.
Halim has admitted to the fatal shooting, but said neither Aziz nor Islam were involved. He was paroled from prison in 2010, the Associated Press reported.
Convictions Overturned After Evidence Emerged Of Witness Intimidation, Evidence Suppresion
Both Aziz and Islam’s convictions were dismissed in November 2021 after new evidence emerged including suppression of evidence and witness intimidation, according to the AP.
Then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. apologized for law enforcement’s “serious, unacceptable violations of law and the public trust.”
Meanwhile, attorneys David Shanies and Deborah Francois, who filed the complaints on behalf of Aziz and Islam, said in court filings that the two men were at their homes in the Bronx at the time Malcolm X was killed.
A spokesperson for New York City’s law department referred a request for comment to Mayor Eric Adams, who told the AP in a statement that he believes overturning the two men’s convictions was “just” while adding they are “reviewing this lawsuit.”
“As someone who has fought for a fairer criminal justice system for my entire career, I believe the overturning of Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam’s convictions was the just outcome. We are reviewing this lawsuit.”
Malcolm X, an African-American Muslim minister and prominent civil rights activist, was the spokesman for the Nation of Islam until 1964, a year before his death. He was a vocal advocate for Black empowerment as well as the promotion of Islam within the Black community.