The ABC News network is airing a special on Feb. 3, 2022 about one of the two men who was recently exonerated in the murder of civil rights icon Malcolm X after decades of imprisonment. “X/onerated: The Murder of Malcolm X and 55 Years to Justice” will focus on Norman 3X Butler (known as Muhammad Abdul Aziz).
He and Khalil Islam were exonerated on Nov. 18, 2021, by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Islam died in 2009 at the age of 74.
Despite the exoneration, some still feel the Aziz was involved in the plot to murder Malcolm X. Malcolm X was shot to death on Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, New York City, where he was to give a speech. Aziz may be exonerated, but exonerated doesn’t mean innocent in the eyes of researcher Karl Evanzz.
A Nation of Islam scholar, Evanzz wrote to the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who exonerated Aziz and Islam. The letter was also sent to Peter Casolaro, who is also in the D.A.’s office.
Dated Feb. 7, 2020, the letter read: “I am writing as regards the current misguided attempt to ‘clear the name’ of Norman 3X Butler, aka Muhammad Abdul Aziz, one of three Black Muslims who shot Malcolm X to death inside the Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965.”
According to Evanzz, he located a video titled “The Black Zapruder Film: They Killed Malcolm X,” where Aziz can be seen at the Audubon Ballroom the day Malcolm was killed.
In the letter, Evanzz directs the district attorney to “skip to the sixteen-minute mark, and you will see a Black man wearing a tweed coat and Black hat at a forty-five-degree angle wrestling his way through the crowd as Malcolm X is removed by stretcher from the Audubon Ballroom and taken to the hospital across the street.”
He continued, “The man is none other than Norman 3X Butler. He lied in 1965 about not being involved in the assassination, and he has been lying about it ever since.”
In 1985, after serving 20 years in prison, Aziz was released on parole. Islam was released in 1987 after serving 22 years. Both men, who always maintained their innocence, appealed their convictions.
Interest was sparked in the Malcolm X convictions in 2020 by the release of the Netflix documentary, “Who Killed Malcolm X?”, which follows the work of independent historian Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, who spent decades investigating the murder.
“After I had watched the Netflix documentary, I thought there was enough to look at this,” Manhattan District Attorney Vance told ABC News’ “Soul of a Nation.”
“Soul of a Nation” is a six-episode primetime series premiering in March 2021 that puts Black life in America front and center.
The D.A.’s office, along with David Shanies and Deb Francois of the Shanies Law Office and the Innocence Project, launched a new investigation. They discovered that the FBI failed to disclose documents that cast doubt on the involvement of Aziz and Islam, ABC News reported
Vance vacated the convictions of Aziz and Islam, citing “newly discovered evidence and the failure to disclose exculpatory evidence.”
“X/onerated: The Murder of Malcolm X and 55 Years to Justice” features the first interview with Aziz since his release.
“If God is on your side, it doesn’t matter who’s against you. God’s on my side,” Aziz said in an interview that is set to air tonight on ABC News’ “X/onerated – The Murder of Malcolm X and 55 Years to Justice.”
Aziz is a former Navy veteran. He and Islam were members of the Nation of Islam and belonged to Malcolm X’s Mosque #7 in Harlem before Malcolm X left the Nation.
According to the TV special, neither Aziz nor Islam were at the Audubon Ballroom when Malcolm X was murdered. However, days later, they were arrested in connection with the murder.
“They came to arrest me for something that I didn’t do,” Aziz said in “X/onerated.”
Aziz and Islam were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
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Talmadge Hayer, who was nabbed by police at the scene of Malcolm X’s shooting, confessed to the former NOI spokesperson. Hayer testified at trial that Aziz and Islam were not involved in the killing, and in the late 1970s, Hayer signed an affidavit naming four other men who he said were involved in planning and carrying out the murder, ABC News reported.
Aziz, who was 26 when he went to prison, was 83 when he was cleared of the murder.
Aziz and the estate of Khalil Islam have filed two multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits aimed at New York state government officials. They are also suing the city of New York.
“Everybody that was in some kind of way close to me, psychologically, emotionally, physically – those people suffered, too,” Aziz said. “Some were threatened.”
Malcolm X’s daughter, Ilyasha Shabazz, told “Soul of a Nation” her family still wants answers.
“We want to know the truth. We want to know why our father was killed and who did it,” she said.
Photo: Malcolm X Shabazz, left, is shown in 1963. (AP Photo)/ Norman 3X Butler, aka Muhammad Abdul Aziz, 26, right, is shown at a police station in New York City, Feb. 26, 1965, charged with homicide in the assassination of Malcolm X (AP Photo).