Judge acquits two men for murder of civil rights activist Malcolm X

A New York judge has exonerated two African Americans convicted more than 50 years ago for the murder of Malcolm X, the noted activist who championed the civil rights of African Americans in the 1960s. He was shot and killed during a speech in New York on February 21, 1965. Three people were arrested at the time, Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam, and Mujahid Abdul Halim. The three were convicted of murder in March 1966.

The three men were all members of the Nation of Islam, an African-American Muslim organization that fought, among other things, for equal rights for the black population. Malcolm X was a spokesman for the Nation of Islam but is said to have rejected the Nation’s ideology after a while and converted to orthodox Islam.

American civil rights activist Malcolm X was shot and killed during a speech in New York on February 21, 1965.
American civil rights activist Malcolm X was shot and killed during a speech in New York on February 21, 1965. ©AP

In addition, he is said to have had a public feud with the founder of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X accused Muhammad of adultery and left the religious group in March 1964. He was murdered not long after.

Muhammad Aziz, aka Norman 3X Butler, aged 83 today, was acquitted on Thursday. Khalil Islam, aka Thomas 15X Johnson, was also acquitted. He passed away in 2009. The two have always maintained that they were innocent.

The third convict, Mujahid Abdul Halim, confessed at the time that he allegedly fired the shot and cleared the name of the two others, but that was in vain.

The 'Audubon' ballroom in New York after the murder of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965
The ‘Audubon’ ballroom in New York after the murder of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965. ©AP

“Caricature of Justice”

The documentary ‘Who Killed Malcolm X?’ on Netflix in February 2020 cast doubt on whether Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam were even present at the murder scene. Justice re-examined the case, and New York Attorney Cyrus Vance concluded that the two “didn’t get the justice they deserved.” The judge endorsed that position on Thursday, calling it a “failure of justice.”

“The events that brought us to court today should never have happened. Those events were and still are the result of a process that was completely corrupt, a process that black people will be very familiar with in 2021,” Aziz, 83, said at the hearing.

“I hope that the same system that was responsible for this caricature of justice also takes responsibility for the immeasurable damage it has done to me over the past 55 or 56 years,” he said.

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