New York Daily News: By Ellen Wulfhorst –
New York City and New York State have agreed to pay $36 million to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of two men who were wrongfully convicted and spent decades in prison for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, their lawyer said Sunday.
Muhammad Aziz, 84, and Khalil Islam, who died in 2009, were exonerated last year after an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office found authorities had used witness intimidation and withheld favorable evidence in their trial.
The city will pay $26 million and the state will pay $10 million, said their attorney David Shanies.
“Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam and their families suffered because of these unjust convictions for more than 50 years,” Shanies wrote in an email.
“Police and prosecutorial misconduct cause tremendous damage, and we must remain vigilant to identify and correct injustices,” the lawyer added.
Aziz and Islam, who each maintained their innocence in the 1965 killing at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights, were released on parole in the 1980s.
A Manhattan judge dismissed their convictions last year. Cy Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney at the time, apologized for the “serious, unacceptable violations of law and the public trust.”
The city Law Department said Sunday it “stands by” Vance’s view that the men were wrongfully convicted, a spokesman said.
“This settlement brings some measure of justice to individuals who spent decades in prison and bore the stigma of being falsely accused of murdering an iconic figure,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Malcolm X was considered the voice of the Nation of Islam, preaching racial separatism and calling on Black people to demand their rights “by any means necessary.”
Near the end of his life, however, he split with the Nation of Islam and started talking about the possibility of racial unity. Some members of the organization saw him as a traitor.
He was fatally shot at age 39 as he began delivering a speech on Feb. 21, 1965.
Aziz, Islam and a third man were convicted of murder in March 1966 and sentenced to life in prison.
The third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim, admitted to the murder and said neither Aziz nor Islam were involved.
The two each had alibis that they were in their Bronx homes when the shooting occurred, and there was no physical evidence that tied them to the crime.
The case against them relied heavily on eyewitnesses, some of whom gave inconsistent testimony.
The money will be split evenly between Aziz, who spent 20 years in prison, and the estate of Islam, who spent 22 years in prison, the lawyer said.
Islam was still hoping to clear his name when he died at age 74, the lawyer said.
“It’s tragic that he died never knowing that his name would be cleared,” Shanies told The New York Times.
Top Feature Photo: This combination photo shows Muhammad Aziz, a suspect in the slaying of Malcolm X, after his arrest, in New York, on Feb. 26, 1965, left, and Aziz outside court after his conviction in the killing of Malcolm X was vacated on Nov. 18, 2021, in New York. The city of New York is settling lawsuits filed on behalf of Aziz and Khalil Islam, who were exonerated in 2021 for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, agreeing to pay $26 million for the wrongful convictions which led to both men spending decades behind bars, according to an attorney representing the two men, Sunday, Oct 30, 2022 – AP