The ‘Vindicating’ Exoneration of 2 Men Convicted of Malcolm X’s Murder

On Nov. 18, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam—convicted of the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X—have been exonerated after serving greater than 20 years in jail. After I noticed the information I assumed, wow, that is important. To get up to now of reexamination; to exonerate these two males—one posthumously as a result of he’s not with us and the opposite who remains to be alive—feels vindicating for all of the scholarship that pointed to their innocence.

For many years, activists, students and group leaders have doubted the story offered by the state as to who was answerable for Malcolm X’s assassination. Folks simply knew there was one thing mistaken. And plenty of have beforehand explored the potential for different suspects, together with historian Manning Marable in his 2011 guide Malcolm X: A Lifetime of Reinvention, for which I used to be a lead researcher.

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Learn extra: The Enduring Thriller of Malcolm X’s Assassination

I’m glad to see two individuals who I consider are harmless vindicated. But it surely’s the state that’s doing the vindication—so will we then look away from the state’s culpability? The state nonetheless needs to be held accountable, but it surely has usually not proven itself to be keen to critique itself. What does it imply to revive 55 years of injury not simply to those males and their households, however to communities harmed due to their wrongful convictions.

And what of the state’s personal involvement, not solely within the investigation and prosecution of this case however within the occasions that led as much as Malcolm’s assassination? Malcolm X got here on the scene difficult police brutality and the violence of the carceral state. His legacy requires us to ask these questions.

Two Men Convicted For Malcolm X Murder Exonerated
Spencer Platt—Getty PicturesMuhammad Aziz stands exterior a New York Metropolis courthouse with members of his household and legal professionals after his conviction within the killing of Malcolm X was thrown out on Nov. 18, 2021 in New York Metropolis.

So that is like justice with an asterisk. Make no mistake, whereas Aziz and Islam have been exonerated, the state remains to be on the hook. There was gross misconduct in the way in which this investigation was dealt with and in the way in which that the trial was carried out. If these two males didn’t kill Malcolm X, then who did? Just one man, Talmadge Hayer, was caught on the scene. Hayer confessed, and was additionally convicted of the assassination. Not solely did he vindicate Aziz and Islam—then Norman Butler and Thomas Johnson—from the witness stand on the trial, he later named different males who he alleged did conspire with him.

And after we learn this week’s reporting within the New York Occasions on the case, it confirms that regulation enforcement withheld proof. Each the NYPD and FBI didn’t open up to prosecutors that that they had undercover officers on the scene. They determined as a substitute to guard their property; there appeared to be a need to wrap up the investigation shortly. What paths of inquiry have been prevented or reduce quick consequently? If these two males have been unjustly convicted, then who else was unjustly allowed to roam free?

Learn extra: These Ignored Black Ladies Formed Malcolm X’s Life

Actual justice requires transparency. Hundreds of pages of each native and federal surveillance recordsdata have been launched—a lot of it redacted. Is there extra? Even As a historian, I consider full transparency will get us nearer to a extra correct historic document.

Manning Marable sadly handed away a number of days earlier than his guide got here out. However he was very a lot dedicated to reigniting questions across the assassination, as a result of he did really feel it was a miscarriage of justice for Malcolm X, for these males, and for all of the communities on whose behalf Malcolm organized. I think about that he’s resting a lot simpler at this time.

Zaheer Ali is the chief director of the Hutchins Middle for Race and Social Justice at The Lawrenceville Faculty in New Jersey.

—As instructed to Sanya Mansoor


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