Lawsuits filed on behalf of two men exonerated last year for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X are being settled by the New York City, which has agreed to pay $26 million for the convictions that led to both men spending decades in prison, according to the Associated Press. New York state will pay an additional $10 million. “Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam, and their families suffered because of these unjust convictions for more than 50 years,” said David Shanies, an attorney for the men. “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.” Shanies said the settlements send a message that “police and prosecutorial misconduct cause tremendous damage, and we must remain vigilant to identify and correct injustices.” Malcolm X was shot to death while beginning a speech on Feb. 21, 1965. Aziz and Islam, then known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, and a third man were convicted of murder in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison. The third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim admitted shooting Malcolm X and said neither Aziz nor Islam was involved. The two offered alibis, and no physical evidence linked them to the crime. The case hinged on eyewitnesses, although there were inconsistencies in their testimony.
Last year, a judge dismissed the convictions of Aziz, now 84, and Islam, who died in 2009, after prosecutors said new evidence of witness intimidation and suppression of exculpatory evidence had undermined the case against the men. Then-District Attorney Cyrus Vance apologized for law enforcement’s “serious, unacceptable violations of law and the public trust.” The New York City Law Department said Sunday it “stands by” Vance’s opinion that the men were wrongfully convicted and the financial agreement “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.” Aziz and Islam, who maintained their innocence from the start in the killing at Upper Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, were paroled in the 1980s. Attorneys said Aziz spent 20 years in prison and more than 55 years living with the hardship and indignity associated with being unjustly branded as a convicted murderer of an important civil rights leader. Islam spent 22 years in prison and died still hoping to clear his name.