Oct 30, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Men wrongly convicted of Malcolm X murder to receive $36 million

Muhammad Aziz stands outside of a New York City courthouse with members of his family and lawyers after his conviction in the killing of Malcolm X was thrown out on November 18, 2021.

Muhammad Aziz outside of a New York City courthouse with his family and lawyers after his conviction in the killing of Malcolm X was thrown out in November 2021. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The city of New York has agreed to pay $26 million in lawsuit settlements filed on behalf of two men exonerated last year in the assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X, their attorney said Sunday.

The big picture: The state of New York will pay out a further $10 million over the 1966 conviction of Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, who spent decades in prison, said their attorney David Shanies, per AP.

  • Aziz was paroled in 1985 and Islam was released from prison in 1987. Islam died in 2009.
  • A New York City Law Department spokesperson said in a statement that the settlement would be divided equally between 84-year-old Aziz and the estate of Islam, according to the New York Times.

What they're saying: "Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam, and their families suffered because of these unjust convictions for more than 50 years," said Shanies said in a statement, per AP.

  • "The City recognized the grave injustices done here, and I commend the sincerity and speed with which the Comptroller’s Office and the Corporation Counsel moved to resolve the lawsuits."
  • Nick Paolucci, the New York City Law Department spokesperson, said he 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," the NYT reports.

The bottom line: "Based on our review, this office stands by the opinion of former Manhattan district attorney Vance who stated, based on his investigation, that 'there is one ultimate conclusion: Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam were wrongfully convicted of this crime,'" Paolucci added.

Thought bubble, via Axios' Russell Contreras: The settlement adds further mystery about the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, which has been questioned in recent years by activists, historians and his family.

Zoom in: The killing of Malcolm X in New York's Audubon Ballroom was one of the most high-profile assassinations of the civil rights era.

  • Aziz and Islam were exonerated last November after an investigation found evidence of "witness intimidation and suppression," AP notes.
  • Scholars and civil rights advocates and some have alleged police and federal agents played a role in the civil rights icon's death.
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