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Man Exonerated In Malcolm X Assassination Files $40 Million Lawsuit Against New York City

Muhammad A. Aziz is suing the New York Police Department and the Manhattan district attorney’s office over his wrongful conviction in the murder of civil rights leader Malcolm X in 1965.

By Jill Sederstrom
Muhammad Aziz G

A man wrongfully convicted of killing civil rights icon Malcolm X filed a $40 million lawsuit Thursday against New York City, alleging the wrongful conviction had caused “irreparable damage” to the now 84-year-old’s life, according to the suit obtained by ABC News.

Muhammad A. Aziz, 84, was exonerated late last year for the 1965 murder of Malcolm X after then-Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance filed motions to vacate the convictions of both Aziz and his co-defendant Khalil Islam, who died in 2009 before ever seeing his name cleared.

Aziz spent 20 years behind bars before getting paroled in 1985. After serving 22 years, Islam was released two years after Aziz. Both men, however, remained guilty under the eyes of the law until their exonerations in November.

“Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for decades — 42 years between them — as the result of outrageous government misconduct and violations of their constitutional rights,” attorney David Shanies said, according to the news outlet. “Justice delayed for far too long is justice denied."

The lawsuit accuses the New York Police Department and Manhattan district attorney’s office of withholding critical information that could have cleared the men, as well as coercing witnesses to provide false testimony, according to The New York Times.

His attorneys allege in the filing that documents and information from undercover officers and informants was “hidden from the defense, from the court and, in many cases, from the prosecution,” leading to the wrongful convictions of both men.

“He spent 20 years, during what should have been the prime of his life, locked in prison for a crime he did not commit,” the lawsuit stated. “The damage done to Mr. Aziz and his family was immense and irreparable.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement to Oxygen.com that the city was currently reviewing the lawsuit.

“As someone who has fought for a fairer criminal justice system for my entire career, I believe the overturning of Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam’s convictions was the just outcome,” Adams said.

Aziz received a $5 million settlement in April after suing New York State for its role in the conviction. Lawsuits against New York State and New York City have also been filed on behalf of Islam’s estate, The Times reports.

Malcolm X was shot to death on February 21, 1965 while giving a speech at Upper Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, according to The Associated Press.

The 39-year-old had split from the extremist group Nation of Islam shortly before he was killed.

Mujahid Abdul Halim, who has also been known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan, was caught at the scene and confessed to the shooting. He testified that neither Aziz or Islam had been involved in the shooting, but a jury still convicted the two men primarily based on eyewitness testimony.

Halim was paroled in 2010 and has previously said other men were involved with the killing — even providing specific names — but no one else has ever been charged in connection with the assassination.

New attention was brought to the case in 2020 after the Netflix documentary series “Who Killed Malcolm X?” led by historian Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, aired. Muhammad had devoted decades to investigating the case.  

Oxygen.com reached out to Shanies to comment on the most recently lawsuit, but he was in court Friday and unable to comment.

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