Court Battles

Man exonerated in Malcolm X murder sues New York State

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A man recently exonerated for the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X is suing New York State over his wrongful conviction, seeking at least $20 million in damages for personal injuries and a 20-year imprisonment.

Muhammad Aziz filed the lawsuit on Monday in New York’s Court of Claims through the David B. Shanies law firm. Aziz is suing for false imprisonment, unlawful detention, malicious prosecution and severe emotional and psychological distress, among other charges.

In a statement, Aziz said he does “not dwell on what my life might have been like had this travesty of justice never occurred,” but he was wounded by his conviction and the “deep and lasting trauma it caused.”

“The more than 20 years that I spent in prison were stolen from me and my family, and while the official record now recognizes the truth that has been known for decades, nothing can undo the damage that my wrongful conviction caused to all of us,” Aziz said in a statement. “Those responsible for depriving me of my liberty and for depriving my family of a husband, a father, and a grandfather should be held accountable.”

Aziz, 83, was convicted of the Malcolm X murder, along with Khalil Islam, in 1966. Aziz was paroled in 1985 and Islam in 1987.

The two were not cleared of the crime until Nov. 18, when the New York State Supreme Court exonerated them following a nearly two-year investigation from the district attorney’s office that dug up concealed evidence from the FBI and the New York Police Department.

Aziz has lived under the shadow of the conviction for nearly 56 years, the lawsuit alleges. Islam died in 2009, but his estate will soon be filing a similar lawsuit, according to the press release from Shanies.

Shanies said he was calling on New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) and the comptroller in New York City to “fulfill their moral obligations to these men and their families.”

“Tragically, Mr. Islam will never have the opportunity to rebuild his life and hold accountable the men who destroyed it. Mr. Aziz, who was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 27, is now an 83-year-old man,” Shanies said in the statement. “After more than 55 years living under this cloud, Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam should not have to wait a second longer for justice to be done.”

Malcolm X, a famous activist and former speaker for the Nation of Islam, was shot and killed by three men in 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City while he was giving a speech. Although Aziz and Islam were affiliated with the Nation of Islam, the men were not in the ballroom that day, which investigators knew, the lawsuit says.

The men who killed Malcolm X include a former lieutenant with the Nation of Islam, William Bradley, and two others affiliated with the organization, which investigators also knew when they decided to arrest Aziz and Islam, according to the lawsuit.

The New York District Attorney’s Office initiated a review of the evidence in January 2020 and completed the investigation after 22 months The office agreed the FBI and NYPD concealed key evidence, which District Attorney Cyrus Vance apologized for.

“I apologize on behalf of our nation’s law enforcement for this decades-long injustice, which has eroded public faith in institutions that are designed to guarantee the equal protection of the law,” he wrote on Twitter on Nov. 17, a day before the two men were exonerated.

The Hill has reached out to the New York District Attorney’s office for comment.

Tags Court of Claims Cyrus Vance damages David B Letitia James Malcolm X Muhammed Aziz Murder of Malcolm X Nation of Islam New York New York City New York State Personal injury Shanies Law Office wrongful conviction

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