Man exonerated in killing of Malcolm X files civil claim seeking millions

Muhammad Aziz is filing claims against New York state and New York City.

December 14, 2021, 5:18 PM

Muhammad Aziz, one of two men exonerated last month in the killing of Malcom X, filed a civil claim Tuesday against New York state, seeking $20 million in damages.

Aziz cited "more than 55 years living with the hardship and indignity attendant to being unjustly branded as a convicted murderer of one of the most important civil rights leaders in history" in a statement released by his attorneys at The David B. Shanies Law Office.

He also filed a notice of claim against New York City seeking legal redress for civil rights violations and other "government misconduct" that caused his wrongful conviction, according to the release.

A person walks past a picture of Malcolm X on a Brooklyn mural of iconic civil rights leaders on Nov. 18, 2021, in New York.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"While I do not dwell on what my life might have been like had this travesty of justice never occurred, the deep and lasting trauma it caused cannot be overstated," 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 and Khalil Islam were convicted of being accomplices in the assassination of Malcom X in 1965, and Aziz spent more than 20 years in prison before he was paroled in 1985. Islam died in 2009.

Both men claimed that they were innocent, and confessed assassin Thomas Hagan, who served 45 years in prison, also maintained that neither man had participated in the killing.

Khalil Islam, center, is booked as a suspect in the slaying of Malcolm X, in New York, March 3, 1965.

Last month, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance moved to vacate the convictions of the two men due to "newly discovered evidence and the failure to disclose exculpatory evidence," according to a joint motion Vance's office filed with the defense.

Aziz, previously known as Norman Butler, appeared in front of a judge on Nov. 18 to officially clear his name.

Muhammad Aziz stands outside of a New York City courthouse with members of his family and lawyers after his conviction in the killing of Malcolm X was thrown out on Nov. 18, 2021.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"The events that led to my conviction and wrongful imprisonment should never have happened," Aziz read in a statement on Nov. 18. "Those events were the result of a process that was corrupt to its core -- one that is all too familiar -- even in 2021."