Justice took more than half a century to reach two of the three convicts who until this Thursday were known as those responsible for the murder of African-American leader Malcolm X in 1965. Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam, who always defended their innocence in one of the The most notorious deaths in the fight for the civil rights of the black community have been exonerated, the last posthumously. A New York judge confirmed the nullity of their sentences considering that the process was flawed and the guilty sentences were therefore erroneous. “I do not need a court, or prosecutors, or a piece of paper to know that I am innocent,” Aziz said after confirming the exoneration after an investigation triggered by the unpublished material revealed in a Netflix documentary series that questioned the official version of the case.
Cyrus R. Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney, who commissioned the reopening of the case, started the hearing by asking for forgiveness. “We cannot restore what was taken from these men and their families, but by correcting the record, perhaps we can begin to restore that faith.” The prosecutor and the lawyers of the two now exonerated have worked on the case since 2020, when new details were known about the alibis of the two men, scorned and neglected in their day. The motion details more than a dozen reports compiled by the FBI and the NYPD were not released to the defense in 1966, during the trial. In several of them there was information that points to the innocence of the men.
After spending two decades in prison, Aziz, now 83 years old and calling himself Norman 3X Butler at the time, was released in 1985, while Islam, nicknamed Thomas 15X Johnson, was released two years later and passed away. in 2009. Both always defended their innocence. The third implicated, Mujahid Abdul Halim, known by the aliases of Talmadge Hayer or Thomas Hagan, did admit his involvement in the crime, but left the other two condemned out of the plot.
Aziz and two of Islam’s children attended the reading of the ruling on Thursday. A closed applause broke out in the room as Judge Ellen Biben of the State Supreme Court confirmed the annulment of the sentences, underlining that she regretted that the court could not return to Aziz and Islam the years they had lost behind bars because of erroneous convictions.
The black leader and civil rights lawyer was killed on February 21, 1965, when three men shot him in the presence of his wife and daughters in an auditorium in Manhattan, New York, where he was about to deliver a speech. Doubts surrounded the investigation of the case from the first moment, which gave rise to all kinds of alternative theories; Specifically, if the murder was due to a conspiracy orchestrated by the Government at a particularly troubled moment, that of the struggle for civil rights in the United States, or was it a target of the very militant followers of the Nation of Islam, an organization from which Malcolm X had parted ways a year earlier.
In an interview with The New York Times, which advanced the news, the prosecutor Vance asked this Wednesday for forgiveness on behalf of the security forces. “What we can do is recognize the error, the severity of the error,” he said. “This points to the truth that law enforcement has often failed in their responsibilities,” he added.
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