The two men found guilty of assassinating civil rights activist Malcolm X in 1965 are expected to be exonerated on Thursday, their lawyers and the Manhattan district attorney told The New York Times on Wednesday.
The decision to throw out convictions of the two men, Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam, comes after a 22-month investigation into allegations that prosecutors, the FBI and the New York Police Department all withheld key evidence in the case that would have acquitted the men.
In an interview with the Times, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. apologized on behalf of those involved in convicting the two Black Muslim men and said key missteps occurred in the trial.
“This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities,” he said. “These men did not get the justice that they deserved.”
Both men were sentenced to life in prison but were released on parole in the 1980s. Aziz is now 83, but Islam died in 2009. Both long maintained their innocence, and a third man who confessed and was convicted in Malcolm X’s death has also insisted that Aziz and Islam were not guilty of the crime.
The investigation, which Vance conducted alongside the Innocence Project and civil rights lawyer David Shanies’ office, uncovered evidence bolstering Aziz’s alibi, implicating other suspects and revealing that prosecutors didn’t disclose that undercover police were in the Harlem ballroom where Malcolm X was shot.
Earlier this year, the family of deceased former NYPD officer Ray Wood released a deathbed letter he wrote confessing that he, the NYPD and the federal government arranged for Malcolm X not to be adequately protected from an assassination while he gave his speech in the ballroom. He also confessed to helping frame Islam.
Though historians and legal scholars have long raised issue with the convictions, interest in reopening the cases surged after Netflix began streaming a six-part documentary titled “Who Killed Malcolm X?”
Both Aziz and Islam were members of the Nation of Islam, a Black nationalist organization that Malcolm X served as spokesperson of until leaving the organization a year before his death.