By Rich McKay
(Reuters) – A man exonerated last year in the 1965 slaying of Black activist Malcolm X and the estate of a second man cleared posthumously reached a settlement totaling $36 million with New York City and state, their attorney said on Sunday.
Muhammad Aziz, 84, had sought $40 million after serving about two decades in prison and more than 55 years after being wrongly blamed in the case that raised questions about racism in the criminal justice system. Aziz is married and has six children.
Khalil Islam, who died in 2009 at age 74, also spent more than 20 years in prison and was exonerated in November 2021. His estate had also filed a $40 million suit.
The city has agreed to pay $26 million and the state will pay $10 million, attorney David Shanies told Reuters. The survivor and the man’s estate will split the settlement.
“Muhammad Aziz, Khalil Islam, and their families deserve this for their suffering,” Shanies said. “They suffered a lifetime under the cloud of wrongly being accused of killing a civil rights leader.”
Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the New York City Law Department, told the New York Times on Sunday that, “this settlement brings some measure of justice to individuals who spent decades in prison and bore the stigma of being falsely accused of murdering an iconic figure.”
A representative for the state attorney general’s office was not immediately available for comment.
Malcolm X became prominent as the voice of the Nation of Islam, which espoused Black separatism, before leaving the organization in 1964 and angering some of its followers. He was shot dead at age 39 in February 1965 while preparing to speak at New York’s Audubon Ballroom.
A third man, Mujahid Halim, was also convicted for the shooting. He testified that Aziz and Islam were innocent. Halim was paroled in 2010.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Donna Bryson and Sandra Maler)