Netflix documentary leads to review of Malcolm X's murder
The Manhattan district attorney has announced it will consider reopening the case after a six-part series detailed potential miscarriages of justice
The investigation into Malcolm X’s death could be reopened after new information was detailed in a Netflix series. Following the release of the six-part documentary Who Killed Malcolm X? – which launched on the streaming platform on 7 February – the Manhattan district attorney will look into the case of the civil rights activist, with the possibility that the case may be reopened.
Three men were jailed for the 1965 murder of the activist, who in his campaigns for black empowerment dismissed the nonviolent ideology of contemporaries such as Martin Luther King. Malcolm X had been a member of Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam until an acrimonious split in 1964. Another member, Talmadge Hayer – later known as Mujahid Abdul Halim – admitted his part in the killing, while two other men, Norman 3X Butler (who later became Muhammad Abdul Aziz) and Thomas 15X Johnson (who took the name Khalil Islam), maintained their innocence. Aziz was released on parole in 1985; Islam was released in 1987 and died in 2009; Halim was released in 2010.
The documentary examines various theories surrounding the killing, including that it was set up by the FBI and was carried out by white nationalists. Crucially, it emphasises the lack of evidence against Aziz and Islam, and the fact that Halim said that neither man was involved. The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organisation that investigates potential miscarriages of justice, has also claimed that a civil rights lawyer, William Kunstler, obtained FBI documents supporting Halim’s version of events and naming other co-conspirators.
In a statement, the district attorney said: “[District attorney Cyrus] Vance has met with representatives from the Innocence Project and associated counsel regarding this matter.”
District attorney staff Peter Casolaro – who was part of the team that cleared the Central Park Five – and Charles King will work on the review. This news pleased campaigners. In a statement, the Innocence Project cofounder Barry Scheck said: “Given the historical importance of this case and the fact that our client [Aziz] is 81 years old, we are especially encouraged that Mr Vance has assigned two highly respected prosecutors to work on this re-investigation.”