Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X draws various reactions from the audience, June 29, 1963, as he restates his theme of complete separation of whites and African Americans.
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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and the Innocence Project will ask a judge Thursday to vacate the wrongful convictions of two men for the 1965 murder of Black civil rights leader Malcolm X, Vance’s spokesman said.
The planned move comes after a nearly two-year investigation by Vance’s office and attorneys for the men, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, found that the FBI and the New York Police Department withheld crucial evidence that likely would have exonerated them at their 1966 trial, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Among that evidence was prosecutors’ notes showing that they failed to tell defense lawyers that there were undercover police officers in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights in Manhattan when Malcolm X was shot by three gunmen on Feb. 21, 1965, The Times noted.
Vance last year said he would review the convictions after the release of the Netflix documentary series “Who Killed Malcolm X?” which had underscored longstanding questions about the fairness of the convictions.
Both Aziz and Islam were released from prison in the mid-1980s after serving two decades behind bars for the slaying of Malcolm X, who was just 39 years old when he was shot in front of his pregnant wife and three of his daughters.
Islam, who had worked as a driver for Malcolm X, died in 2009. The 83-year-old Aziz is still alive.
A hearing has been scheduled for the exoneration request in Manhattan Supreme Court for Thursday afternoon.
A third man convicted in the murder, Mujahid Abdul Halim, admitted being one of the three gunmen that day, but said that neither Islam nor Aziz was among the killers.
Halim’s conviction will not be affected by the exoneration of the other two men.
All three men were members of the Nation of Islam, the extremist group that Malcolm X belonged to for years before leaving it to follow traditional Sunni Islam practice in 1964.
Malcolm X’s departure from the Nation of Islam led to him being branded a traitor by the group’s leadership. A week before he was killed, Malcolm X’s house in Queens was firebombed.
The evidence withheld from defense lawyers at trial included an FBI report revealing that New York authorities were not told that another man, Nation of Islam enforcer William Bradley, was suspect in the assassination, The Times noted Wednesday.
Bradley also matched a description of one of the shooters given by an eyewitness.