Two Men Convicted Of Malcolm X’s Murder Will Have Their Convictions Thrown Out
Malcolm X
Bob Parent/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr, two men who had been convicted over 50 years ago in the killing of black activist Malcolm X in February 1965 were wrongfully convicted and their convictions will be thrown out on Thursday.

Muhammad A. Aziz, 83, who was released in 1985,  and Khalil Islam, who was released in 1987 and died in 2009, were known at the time of the murder as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson.

On February 21, 1965, three men opened fire at Malcolm X, who had left the Nation of Islam in 1964, inside the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan.

“One suspect, Mujahid Abdul Halim, was apprehended at the ballroom after being shot in the thigh. Mr. Aziz, then known as Norman 3X Butler, was arrested five days later, and Mr. Islam, known as Thomas 15X Johnson, another five days after that. Within a week, the three men, all members of the Nation of Islam, had been charged with murder,” The New York Times reported.

The three men were found guilty in March 1966 and sentenced to life in prison one month later.

One defense witness testified that the man with the shotgun was dark-skinned, stocky and sporting a “deep” beard, evidence the prosecution used to target Khalil Islam, but he was “light-skinned, lean and clean-shaven,” The Times stated, adding that the description would have been more aptly applied to William Bradley, whom the Times called an enforcer for the Nation of Islam.

Malcolm X recruited Louis Farrakhan into the Nation of Islam in the 1950s, according to historian Clayborne Carson, the author of the 1991 book “Malcolm X: The FBI File.” Farrakhan reportedly condemned Malcolm X for trying to establish ties with civil rights groups, writing in the Muslim newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, “The die is set, and Malcolm shall not escape, especially after such evil foolish talk about his benefactor, Elijah Muhammad. Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death.”

Carson said, “I think Malcolm himself knew that his former colleagues wanted to see him dead. The question is not whether they wanted to see him dead, but whether they actually ordered the assassination. Within the context of the Nation of Islam, there was no need to do it. If you label somebody as an enemy of your religion, then the strongest believers are going to believe that is an invitation to take matters into their own hands. It didn’t have to come down as an order. Farrakhan would not have had to order the assassination. All he had to do was identify Malcolm as a traitor.”

The Washington Post reported, “Farrakhan has denied ordering the assassination but in 1994 admitted to having ‘helped create the atmosphere’ that led to it. In the interview, he said, ‘As I may have been complicit in words that I spoke leading up to February 21st, I acknowledge that and regret that any word that I have said caused the loss of life of a human being.’”

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