Crusader Staff Report
Malcolm X has been dead for 55 years. Though he is gone, questions about his brutal assassination on February 21, 1965 remain. Now, a fresh Netflix documentary is raising new questions about Malcolm X’s murder, prompting the Manhattan District Attorney Office in New York to open a new review of the case.
Malcolm X was brutally gunned down while addressing a group at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. Three men from the Nation of Islam were charged in connection to his murder. During that time, Malcolm X had switched to a different religion after falling out as the protégé of Nation of Islam leader, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
For years, many scholars, including Manning Marable, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” have maintained that the wrong people were incarcerated for the crime. Netflix’s latest documentary argues two of the men convicted of Malcolm X’s murder could not have been at the scene of the crime.
The story, “Who Killed Malcolm X?” is a six-part docu-series that follows historian and investigative journalist Abdur-Rahman Muhammad as he takes a deep dive into the assassination in an attempt to answer the title’s question.
Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, was a leader and intense civil rights figure who, while in prison for burglary, converted to the Black Muslim religious movement, the Nation of Islam. The group preached Black self-reliance and a return to African roots. Malcolm later repudiated the movement and embraced Sunni Islam in 1964. A year later, Malcolm X was assassinated by three men at age 39.
Three members of the Nation of Islam were arrested and charged with killing Malcolm X. They were Mujahid Abdul Halim (formerly known as Talmadge X Hayer), Muhammad Abdul Aziz (formerly known as Norman 3X Butler) and Khalil Islam (formerly known as Thomas 15X Johnson). All three men were convicted in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison.
According to the Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that aims to exonerate those wrongly convicted, Aziz and Islam are innocent.
The organization notes there was no physical evidence connecting Aziz or Islam to the crime. They argue that Aziz had an alibi — at the time of the assassination, he was at home nursing leg injuries.
Aziz, now 81, still maintains his innocence and is fighting to clear his name. Islam died in 2009.
Now, in light of new information revealed in the docuseries, the Manhattan DA’s office will begin a preliminary review into Aziz’s conviction.
“District Attorney Vance has met with representatives from the Innocence Project and associated counsel regarding this matter. He has determined that the district attorney’s office will begin a preliminary review of the matter, which will inform the office regarding what further investigative steps may be undertaken,” Director of Communications Danny Frost said in a statement.
Senior Trial Counsel Peter Casolaro and deputy chief of the Conviction Integrity Unit, Charles King, have been assigned to lead the preliminary review.
Barry Scheck, Innocence Project co-founder and special counsel, said that he was “grateful” that the DA’s office has agreed to conduct a review of Aziz’s conviction.
“Given the historical importance of this case and the fact that our client is 81 years old, we are especially encouraged that Mr. Vance has assigned two highly respected prosecutors, Peter Casolaro and Charles King, to work on this re-investigation,” Scheck said in a statement.
“Mr. Casolaro did extraordinary work on the case of the Exonerated Five and Mr. King is an experienced member of the Conviction Integrity Program. We look forward to working cooperatively with them to see that justice is done.”