Man exonerated in Malcolm X's 1965 murder sues New York City

NEW YORK, July 14 (Reuters) - A man exonerated last November in the 1965 killing of civil rights leader Malcolm X has sued New York City after it admitted to have wrongly branded him a murderer.

Muhammad Aziz, 84, is seeking $40 million for the two decades he spent in prison and more than 55 years of being wrongly blamed, saying it caused "immense and irreparable" damage to him and his family.

Aziz is married and has six children.

A similar $40 million lawsuit was also filed in Brooklyn federal court by the estate of co-defendant Khalil Islam, who spent 22 years in prison and has also been exonerated.

"They got a small measure of justice when their convictions were vacated," Deborah Francois, a lawyer for both plaintiffs, said in a Thursday interview.

"But we want to hold government officials accountable for misconduct that led to their wrongful convictions and decades of living with the stigma of being labeled Malcolm X's murderers."

Settlement talks had proven unsuccessful. Islam died in 2009 at age 74.

Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain, in a statement said the city was reviewing the lawsuits.

He also called overturning Aziz's and Islam's convictions "the just outcome."

Malcolm X became prominent as the voice of the Nation of Islam, which espoused Black separatism, before leaving in 1964 and angering some of its followers as his views moderated.

The civil rights advocate 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.

In recommending that Aziz's and Islam's convictions be dismissed, then-Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance cited new evidence that authorities withheld "dozens and dozens" of documents from the defense, including exculpatory evidence.

Last year, members of Malcolm X’s family made public what they described as a letter written by a deceased police officer stating that the New York Police Department and FBI were behind the 1965 killing of the famed Black activist and civil rights advocate. At the time, the NYPD said it was reviewing the matter and the FBI declined to comment. read more

Victims of wrongful convictions often seek compensation from their accusers.

In 2014, five men who were imprisoned before being exonerated for the 1989 rape of a female jogger in Central Park settled with New York City for $41 million.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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