“I’m an 83-year-old man who was victimized by the criminal justice system.”
These have been the phrases of Muhammad Aziz, proper earlier than Chief Administrative Judge Ellen Biben vacated his and Khalil Islam’s wrongful convictions for the homicide of Malcolm X on Thursday afternoon.
“I regret that this court cannot fully undo the serious miscarriages of justice,” Biben stated.
The exoneration of Aziz and Islam, who died in 2009, got here after the Manhattan District Lawyer’s workplace and the Innocence Challenge launched into a 22-month investigation of the killing of the influential civil rights chief on the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on February twenty first, 1965. The probe was sparked by the Netflix documentary Who Killed Malcolm X?, primarily based on analysis from Washington, D.C. tour information and historian, Abdur-Rahman Muhammad.
In remarks earlier than the court docket, Manhattan District Lawyer Cy Vance apologized profusely for the miscarriage of justice.
“I want to begin by saying directly to Mr. Aziz and his family, to the family of Mr. Islam, and the family of Malcolm X, that I apologize for what were serious, unacceptable violations of the law and the public trust,” he stated. “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. We can’t restore what was taken from these men and their families, but by correcting the record, perhaps we can begin to restore that faith.”
Aziz was launched on parole in 1985. Islam was launched on parole in 1987 and died in 2009. Hayer was launched in 2010, after 45 years in jail. On Wednesday, he instructed the NY Occasions, from his Sundown Park residence, “God bless you, they’re exonerated.”
Late civil rights lawyer William Kunstler was unsuccessful in interesting Aziz’s and Islam’s convictions, however he did receive FBI data by Freedom of Data Act requests.
Whereas no bodily proof stays—together with the shotgun used to assassinate Malcolm X—and all NYPD investigators, attorneys, and all eyewitnesses within the case have died, Vance on Thursday described a cover-up that concerned the NYPD and FBI, all the best way as much as J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s founding director.
“What we have obtained now in this reinvestigation, are numerous materials that my office tragically did not have in 1965 and thus did not turn over to the defense. Most critically, we have obtained dozens and dozens of reports, from the FBI and the NYPD’s Bureau of Special Services and Investigations,” he stated, based on ready remarks. “These records include FBI reports of witnesses who failed to identify Mr. Islam and who implicated other suspects. And, significantly, we now have reports revealing that, on orders from Director J. Edgar Hoover himself, the FBI ordered multiple witnesses not to tell police or prosecutors that they were, in fact, FBI informants.”
He continued, “Many of those documents were exculpatory. None of them were disclosed to the defense. Without these files, it is clear these men did not receive a fair trial, and their convictions must be vacated. Moreover, under the unique circumstances presented by a 55-year-old case, there can be no retrial on any of the charges contained in the indictment. Therefore, the People believe the indictment against Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam should be dismissed.”
“The damage done to them and their family’s through this wrongful conviction is immeasurable,” Barry Scheck, lawyer and co-founder of the Innocence Project, said in court. If that information had been disclosed, he said, “it would have changed the history of the civil rights movement.”
He said that law enforcement in a “systematic effort [to] disrupt the Black Power movement.”
“The state admitting it is a wrong is an enormous step,” Scheck added.
“These were not just innocent mistakes,” Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation at the Innocence Project, said, “They are the result of official misconduct… We need to know how, we need to know why.”
With reporting by Arun Venugopal