While most of the people the review panel sought to interview were dead, a witness who initially came forward at a screening of the documentary offered an account that seemed to confirm Mr. Aziz’s alibi and had never been heard by the authorities.
The witness, identified as J.M., said he was handling the phone at the Nation’s Harlem mosque on the day Malcolm X was killed when Mr. Aziz called and asked for the mosque’s captain. They hung up while J.M. went to find the captain, and then J.M. called Mr. Aziz back on his home phone. Mr. Aziz answered.
Representatives for the two exonerated men said that the moment meant a lot to Mr. Aziz, and to Mr. Islam’s family. But Mr. Shanies, one of the civil rights lawyers representing them, said their convictions had a “horrific, torturous and unconscionable” effect that cannot be undone.
The two men spent a combined 42 years in prison, with years in solitary confinement between them. They were held in some of New York’s worst maximum security prisons in the 1970s, a decade that bore witness to the Attica uprisings.
Mr. Aziz had six children at the time he was convicted; Mr. Islam had three. Both men saw their marriages fall apart and spent the primes of their lives behind bars.
Even after their release, they were understood as Malcolm X’s killers, affecting their ability to live openly in society.
“It affected them in every way you could possibly imagine, them and their families,” Mr. Shanies said.
In the final episode of the documentary series, Mr. Muhammad, the host, asks Mr. Aziz to sign a petition asking the Manhattan district attorney to review his conviction. Mr. Aziz obliges, but says that the 20 years he spent in prison had erased his faith that his name would ever be cleared.
Susan C. Beachy contributed research.
Source: NYT > Top Stories