The convictions of two men for the murder of Malcolm X will be thrown out this week, a stunning reversal that raises new questions about one of the most high-profile assassinations in American history.
Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam are expected to be exonerated on Thursday as a result of a nearly two-year review into the 1965 assassination, led by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the Innocence Project.
The two men spent a combined 42 years in prison after they were found guilty of fatally shooting Malcolm X, one of the country's most influential Black leaders, inside the former Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.
Doubts have long swirled around the circumstances of the killing, with many scholars accusing the government of botching the investigation into the Black Nationalist's death.
In an interview with the Times, Manhattan DA Cy Vance offered an official validation of those long-running suspicions, acknowledging that both the NYPD and the FBI withheld key evidence that would have undermined the convictions.
“This points to the truth that law enforcement over history has often failed to live up to its responsibilities,” Vance said. “These men did not get the justice that they deserved.”
The review was launched following a Netflix documentary, Who Killed Malcolm X?, that examined several theories around the fateful shooting, including an FBI and NYPD conspiracy to make Malcolm X a target in the days leading up to his assassination. The series highlighted the lack of evidence tying Aziz and Islam to the shooting.
Both men were members of the Harlem chapter of the Nation of Islam, a group with which Malcom X had an acrimonious fall-out years earlier. When a third person, belonging to the group's Newark, New Jersey chapter, later confessed to the killing, he maintained that the two co-defendants were innocent.
Prosecutors did not draw a distinction between the two mosques, or the fact that multiple witnesses said that Aziz and Islam were home at the time of the press conference, according to the Times.
Inquiries to Aziz, who was released on parole in 1985, were not returned. Islam was released on parole in 1987 and died in 2009.
Lawyers for the Innocence Project also did not return a request for comment.
The convictions are expected to be exonerated in a New York courthouse on Thursday afternoon.
This is a developing story. We'll update as more information becomes available.