NEW YORK (AP) — New York City is settling lawsuits filed on behalf of two men who were exonerated last year for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, agreeing to pay $26 million for wrongful convictions that led both men to spend decades behind bars.
New York State will pay an additional $10 million. David Shanies, a lawyer representing the men, upheld the settlements on Sunday.
“Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam and their families have suffered because of these unjust sentences for over 50 years,” Shanies said in an email. “The city has recognized the serious injustices committed here, and I salute the sincerity and speed with which the comptroller’s office and the company’s attorney acted to resolve the lawsuits.”
Shanies said the settlements send a message that “misconduct by police and prosecutors is causing enormous damage, and we must remain vigilant to identify and correct injustices.”
Last year, a Manhattan judge threw out the convictions of Aziz, now 84, and Islam, who died in 2009, after prosecutors said new evidence of witness intimidation and of exculpatory evidence had undermined the case against the men. Then-district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. apologized for the “serious and unacceptable violations of the law and the public trust” by law enforcement.
The New York City Legal Department, through a spokesperson, said Sunday it “stands” for Vance’s view that the men were wrongfully convicted and that the financial settlement “brings some measure of justice to people who have spent decades in prison and carried the stigma of being falsely convicted.” charged with the murder of an iconic figure.”
Shanies said that over the next few weeks the settlement papers will be signed and the New York court dealing with probate matters will have to approve the settlement of Islam’s estate. The $36 million total will be split equally between Aziz and Islam’s estate.
Aziz and Islam, who have maintained their innocence since the start of the 1965 murder at Upper Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, were paroled in the 1980s.
Malcolm X gained national prominence as the voice of the Nation of Islam, urging black people to claim their civil rights “by any means necessary”. His autobiography, written with Alex Haley, remains a classic work of modern American literature.
Towards the end of Malcolm X’s life, he split from the Black Muslim organization and, after a trip to Mecca, began to speak of the potential for racial unity. This earned him the wrath of some members of the Nation of Islam, who considered him a traitor.
He was shot while beginning a speech on February 21, 1965. He was 39 years old.
Aziz and Islam, then known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, and a third man were convicted of murder in March 1966. They were sentenced to life in prison.
The third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim – also known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan – admitted shooting Malcolm X but said neither Aziz nor Islam were involved. The two offered alibis, and no physical evidence linked them to the crime. The case relied on eyewitnesses, although there were inconsistencies in their testimony.
Lawyers for Aziz and Islam said in complaints that Aziz and Islam were at their home in the Bronx when Malcolm X was killed. They said Aziz had spent 20 years in prison and more than 55 years living with the hardships and indignity of being unjustly labeled the convicted murderer of one of the city’s most prominent civil rights leaders. the story.
Islam spent 22 years in prison and died hoping to clear his name.