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Men Wrongfully Convicted of Killing Malcom X Settle for $36 Million

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Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam | Image by ABC News

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The City of New York has agreed to pay $26 million to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of two men who were wrongfully convicted of the 1965 assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X. The State of New York will pay Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam an additional $10 million.

David Shanies, an attorney representing the two men, confirmed the settlements.

“Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam, and their families suffered because of these unjust convictions for more than 50 years,” said Shanies in a statement. “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.”

“What’s most important is that Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam have reclaimed their good names,” he said. “They will go down in history as two brave, dignified, innocent men who never stopped fighting their tragic wrongful convictions.

Shanies continued, “It was imperative that these civil lawsuits be resolved immediately and fairly, and I am gratified that New York City and its lawyers worked with us toward a just resolution.”

Aziz and Islam, along with Mujahid Abdul Halim (previously known as both Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan), were convicted of Malcolm X’s murder in 1965 and given indeterminate life sentences.

All three men were members of the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X was part of the Nation until he split from it in 1964 following his pilgrimage to Mecca.

Halim admitted to taking part in the assassination but testified to the innocence of Aziz and Islam. Aziz was paroled in 1985, and Islam was released from prison in 1987.

In November 2021, both Aziz, now 84, and Islam, who died in 2009, were fully exonerated after New York County Supreme Court Administrative Judge Ellen Biben determined the verdicts in their cases had been “serious miscarriages of justice.”

A 22-month investigation by then-Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office and lawyers for the men found that evidence of their innocence, including FBI documents, was withheld during their trial.

“I regret that this court cannot fully undo the serious miscarriages of justice in this case and give you back the many years that were lost,” said Judge Biben.

In July, Aziz filed a $40 million civil rights lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court, arguing that his “wrongful conviction was the product of flagrant official misconduct, including, inter alia, by the NYPD and its intelligence unit, the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations.”

Nick Paolucci, press secretary for the New York City Law Department, said paperwork is in the process of being finalized for the $36 million settlement — which will be split evenly between Aziz and the estate of Islam.

Both parties have “accepted the court’s settlement recommendation in their respective cases,” according to court records.

“This settlement 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,” said a New York City Law Department spokesperson. “Based on our review, this office stands by the opinion of former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who stated, based on his investigation, that ‘there is one ultimate conclusion: Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam were wrongfully convicted of this crime.”

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