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Men Exonerated In Malcom X Assassination To Receive $36M Settlement

Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam reached a settlement with both the city and state of New York following their exoneration in the 1965 murder of Black civil rights pioneer Malcolm X.

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Two men exonerated in the 1965 assassination of Black civil rights activist Malcolm X will receive a $36 million settlement from the state and city of New York.

Muhammad Aziz, 84, and the family of the late Khalil Islam will receive $26 million from the city of New York and $10 million from the state, according to NBC News

"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," a spokesperson for the New York Law Department told Oxygen.com. "Based on our review, this office stands by the opinion of former Manhattan District Attorney [Cyrus] Vance who stated, based on his investigation, that ‘there is one ultimate conclusion: Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam were wrongfully convicted of this crime.’"

RELATED: Former Undercover Cop Claims In Letter That NYPD And FBI Had Role In Malcolm X's Assassination

Aziz and Islam, who died in 2009 at the age of 74, were two of three men convicted in the February 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, who was giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City when he was fatally shot. The shooter, Talmadge Hayer, now known as Mujahid Abdul Halim, was shot by Malcolm X's security detail and later arrested by police.

Halim would later testify that Aziz and Islam, both of whom attended the same mosque as Malcolm X, were not involved in the crime, according to the National Registry of Exonerations

Muhammad Aziz stands outside the courthouse

Nonetheless, Aziz, Islam and Halim were all convicted of murder and subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

Aziz was released from prison on June 24, 1985, and Islam was released on Feb. 10, 1987. Halim was released on parole in 2010.

Aziz and Islam were later exonerated after Netflix released the documentary "Who Killed Malcolm X?" prompting former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to take a closer look at the evidence against the two men. 

Following the conclusion of a 22-month long investigation, New York County Supreme Court Judge Ellen Biben formally exonerated Aziz and Islam in November 2021. 

"I regret that this court cannot undo the serious miscarriage of justice," she said, according to NBC News. “There can be no question that this is a case that cries out for fundamental justice."

Aziz celebrated the exoneration, but noted that there's still much progress to be made in the justice system.

"The events that brought us here 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 — even in 2021,” he said in a statement. “While I do not need a court, prosecutors, or a piece of paper to tell me I am innocent, I am glad that my family, my friends, and the attorneys who have worked and supported me all these years are finally seeing the truth we have all known, officially recognized."

He later filed a lawsuit against the state and city of New York in July.

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