Muhammad Aziz, Man Who Was Exonerated in Murder of Malcolm X, Sues NYC for $40 Million

·2 min read

A man who was cleared in the murder of revolutionary Malcolm X has taken legal action against New York City.

According to NBC News, 84-year-old Muhammad Aziz is suing the city for $40 million, alleging the wrongful conviction caused him and his family “immense and irreparable.” The U.S. Navy veteran was 26 when he was arrested for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, the prominent Black civil rights leader who was gunned down at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan. Aziz and his co-defendants—Mujahid Abdul Halim and Khalil Islam—were sentenced to life in prison.

Aziz would go to spend about 20 years behind bars despite the fact that Halim admitted to the crime and insisted both Aziz and Islam were innocent. Aziz was paroled in 1985, while Islam and Halim were released in 1987 and 2010, respectively. It wasn’t until late last year when Aziz and Islam’s convictions were vacated following nearly two-year investigation. The decision came about 12 years after Islam’s death.

Working with Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance, Aziz’s attorneys presented proof that the NYPD and federal agents withheld evidence that would’ve led to Aziz and Islam’s acquittal more than 50 years ago. The presiding judge described the conviction as a “serious miscarriages of justice.”

“The City’s policy and practice was to tolerate, fail to discipline, and encourage violations of officials’ constitutional obligations to make timely disclosure to the defense of [exculpatory] information,” the lawsuit reads. “The City’s deliberate indifference to such violations created a laissez-faire atmosphere that caused such violations to continue, including in Mr Aziz’s case.”

Islam’s estate has also filed a lawsuit against NYC.

“[Aziz] spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit,” his attorneys, David Shanies and Deborah Francois said in the complaints, “and more than 55 years living with the hardship and indignity attendant to being unjustly branded as a convicted murderer of one of the most important civil rights leaders in history.”

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