2 men set to be cleared in the 1965 killing of Malcolm X

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TWO of the three men convicted in the assassination of Malcolm X are set to be cleared Thursday after insisting on their innocence since the 1965 killing of one of the United States’ most formidable fighters for civil rights, their lawyers and Manhattan’s top prosecutor said Wednesday.

A nearly two-year-long re-investigation found that authorities withheld evidence favorable to the defense in the trial of Muhammad Aziz, now 83, and the late Khalil Islam, said their attorneys, the Innocence Project and civil rights lawyer David Shanies.

Aziz called his conviction “the result of a process that was corrupt to its core—one that is all too familiar” even today.

“I do not need a court, prosecutors or a piece of paper to tell me I am innocent,” he said in a statement.

But he said he was glad his family, friends and lawyers would get to see “the truth we have all known, officially recognized.”

He urged the criminal justice system to “take responsibility for the immeasurable harm it caused me.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. tweeted that his office would join the men’s attorneys in asking a judge Thursday to toss out the convictions. “These men did not get the justice that they deserved,” Vance told The New York Times, which first reported on the developments.

Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck called the case “one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice that I have ever seen.”

Controversial figure

One of the civil rights era’s most controversial and compelling figures, Malcolm X rose to fame as the Nation of Islam’s chief spokesperson, proclaiming the Black Muslim organization’s message at the time: racial separatism as a road to self- actualization. He famously urged Black people to claim civil rights “by any means necessary” and referred to white people as “blue-eyed devils,” and he later denounced racism. About a year before his death, he split from the Nation of Islam and later made a pilgrimage to Mecca, returning with a new view of the potential for racial unity. Some in the Nation of Islam saw him as a traitor. At age 39, he was gunned down as he began a speech in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965.

Aziz, Islam and a third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim—also known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan—were convicted of murder in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison. Hagan said he was one of three gunmen who shot Malcolm X, but he testified that neither Aziz nor Islam was involved. The two, then known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, maintained throughout that they were innocent and offered alibis at their 1966 trial. No physical evidence linked them to the crime. (AP)

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