Two of the three men convicted of killing the civil rights activist Malcolm X are expected to have their convictions thrown out Thursday.
The men — Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam — always maintained their innocence in the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X, who rose to become one of the most prominent leaders of the civil rights movement.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and lawyers representing the two men first told The New York Times that they expected the names of Aziz and Islam to be cleared Thursday.
Vance and the Innocence Project, which represents the two men, confirmed to NBC News that they would “move to vacate the wrongful convictions of two individuals for the murder of Malcolm X” on Thursday afternoon.
Islam died in 2009, but Aziz, who is in his 80s, continued to fight to clear his record.
The development follows a 22-month investigation and decades of speculation that the case was mishandled from the start.
Malcolm X was assassinated Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City, where hundreds had gathered to hear him speak. Inside the ballroom, several men opened fire, striking him onstage.
Three members of the political and religious group Nation of Islam were arrested: Mujahid Abdul Halim, then known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan; Aziz, then known as Norman 3X Butler; and Islam, then known as Thomas 15X Johnson.
They were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1966. Halim admitted to playing a role in the assassination but maintained that Aziz and Islam had not taken part in it, according to the Innocence Project.
In 2020, a Netflix documentary series entitled “Who Killed Malcolm X?” raised enough questions about the case that Manhattan Distract Attorney Vance announced he was going to review the men’s convictions.
Among the issues raised in the series: Aziz had an alibi. He had injured his leg and gone into a hospital only hours before the assassination. A doctor who treated him had taken the stand in his defense.
“The day of the murder, which was a Sunday morning, I was laying over the couch with my foot up and I heard it over the radio,” Aziz recalled in “Who Killed Malcolm X?”
Halim did eventually reveal his co-conspirators in the assassination. In 1978, he identified four other men he said were involved. But according to the Innocence Project, a judge at the time rejected a motion to vacate Aziz and Islam’s convictions.
2 men convicted of killing Malcolm X expected to be exonerated is written by Elizabeth Chuck and Tom Winter and Jonathan Dienst for www.nbcnews.com