Men wrongfully convicted of killing Malcolm X to get $26 million settlement

Men wrongfully convicted of killing Malcolm X to get $26 million settlement


A man acquitted in the murder of civil rights leader Malcolm X and the estate of another man whose conviction was thrown out will receive $36 million to settle lawsuits filed on his behalf after prosecutors said that the men did not receive a fair trial.

New York City will pay $26 million to Muhammad A. Aziz and the estate of Khalil Islam to settle their wrongful-death convictions in 1966, according to the city’s legal office and an attorney for men The sum will be divided equally between Aziz and Islam’s estate, said the lawyer, David Shanies.

New York state also agreed to pay $5 million to Aziz and the same amount to Islam’s estate, according to Shanies and court records.

“These settlements recognize the innocence of Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, and the senseless violations of the law by the police and prosecutors sworn to uphold it,” Shanies said in an email. “The damage caused by wrongful convictions can never be undone, but we owe it to history and to the people whose lives were destroyed to face the truth and try to make amends.”

Stefan Mooklal, deputy chief of staff for the New York City Law Department, said his office agreed with the conclusion of former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. that Aziz and Islam were unjustly condemned.

“This settlement brings some measure of justice to individuals who have spent decades in prison and carry the stigma of being falsely accused of murdering an iconic figure,” Mooklal said in a statement.

The New York attorney general’s office did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The payments serve as another public mea culpa for the combined 42 years Aziz, 84, and Islam, who died in 2009, served in prison before prosecutors admitted they made a tragic mistake. The couple he was exonerated in November after a jury found him guilty of participating in the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X on the stage of Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom.

Malcolm X: Who was he, why was he assassinated, and who did it?

A Netflix documentary released in 2020 released new evidence that cast doubt on Aziz and Islam’s involvement, prompting Vance to launch a two-year review of his first-degree murder convictions. He ultimately concluded that there were deep flaws in the prosecution, including withheld documents, conflicting eyewitness accounts and seemingly solid alibis exposed in the decades since the convictions.

Aziz and Islam were vindicated in November when a New York Supreme Court panel overturned their convictions decades after Aziz was paroled in 1985 and Islam in 1987. Talmadge Hayer, who passes for Mujahid Abdul Halim, he confessed to the crime and still maintained that Aziz and Islam were innocent.

Standing before a judge at his impeachment hearing, Aziz said the outcome validated what had always been true.

“While I don’t need a court, prosecutors, or a piece of paper to say I’m innocent, I’m happy that my family, my friends, and the lawyers who have worked with and supported me all these years are finally saw the truth that we have. they are all known officially recognized,” he said.

In July, Aziz and the domain of Islam sue New York City and former law enforcement officials for $40 million in compensation for their wrongful convictions.

Aziz and Islam’s estate have been discussing potential settlements with the city since August, court records from federal cases in the Eastern District of New York show. Federal Magistrate Judge Robert M. Levy recommended that the parties reach a settlement, according to docket entries released Saturday.

They served decades in prison for killing Malcolm X. Now their names have been cleared.

As a black religious leader and activist, Malcolm X was controversial among black and white Americans. He advocated for Black empowerment and the adoption of Islam among Blacks while displacing the virulently anti-white ideology of the Nation of Islam, for which he was a spokesman. But her ardent nature has also won her the admiration of many.

Malcolm X eventually left the Nation of Islam after becoming disenchanted with its leader, and he softened his views on whites. Rumors that the Nation planned to assassinate him began to swirl.

At the age of 39, Malcolm X was killed before a speech when an assassin rushed the stage and shot him in the chest with a sawn-off shotgun. Two other people shot him in the ankle and thighs.

The assassination has sparked both fact-based debate and conspiracy theories about the identity of the attackers. Shanies and the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that pushes for criminal justice reform, have long sought to clear the names of Aziz and Islam.

New York Supreme Court Justice Ellen Biben apologized to Aziz and Islam’s family while overturning their convictions last year.

“I regret that this court cannot completely undo the serious miscarriages of justice in this case and give you back the many years that were lost,” he said.

Shayna Jacobs and Sydney Trent contributed to this report.

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