Two men convicted of assassinating Malcolm X exonerated after 55 years

Two men convicted of assassinating Malcolm X exonerated after 55 years
A portrait of Malcolm X

The two men convicted of assassinating Malcolm X in 1965 were exonerated Thursday after a 22-month investigation found that evidence of their innocence, including FBI documents, was withheld at trial.

Muhammad A. Aziz and the late Khalil Islam spent the last half-century fighting for their freedom before New York County Supreme Court Administrative Judge Ellen Biben granted the motion to vacate their convictions Thursday.

Islam died in 2009. Aziz, now 83 years old, addressed the court Thursday.

"The events that brought us to court today should never have occurred. Those events were and are the result of a process that was corrupt to its core, one that is all too familiar to black people in 2021," Aziz said. "I hope the same system that was responsible for this travesty of justice also takes responsibility for the immeasurable harm caused to me during the last 55 or 56 years."

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"I regret that this court cannot fully undo the serious miscarriages of justice in this case and give you back the many years that were lost," Biben said in her ruling before the court erupted in applause.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who handled the investigation, spoke following the ruling.

"I apologize for what were serious, unacceptable violations of law and the public trust," Vance said. "I apologize on behalf of our nation's law enforcement for this decades-long injustice which has eroded public faith in institutions that are designed to guarantee equal protection under law."

Vance continued, "Your honor, we can't restore what was taken away from these men and their families, but by correcting the records, perhaps we can begin to restore that faith."

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Attorney David B. Shanies said Aziz and Islam "experienced the agony of decades in prison for a crime they did not commit. They were robbed of their freedom in the prime of their lives and branded the killers of a towering civil rights leader."

Watch the reactions below.





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