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Malcolm X waiting at Martin Luther King Press Conference, Head and Shoulders Portrait, Marion S. Trikosko, March 26, 1964

Source: Universal History Archive / Getty

Last week, the news of two men who were members of the Nation of Islam involved in the assassination of the civil rights icon Malcolm X 56 years ago were formally exonerated after a judge threw out their convictions. The news came as a relief to the third man involved, formerly known as Talmadge Hayer.

Hayer, who now goes by the name of Mujahid Abdul Halim, expressed his gratitude at the news when contacted at his home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn by a reporter from the New York Times. “God bless you, they’re exonerated,” he said behind the closed door, not wishing to grant an interview. Halim had been steadily advocating for that outcome for Muhammad Aziz and Kahlil Islam, formerly known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson to the point that it drove him to confess to his role in the assassination in the hopes of having the jury find them innocent at their 1966 trial. Judge Ellen N. Biben made the decision to vacate the convictions after a review of the case initiated by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance that lasted 22 months found that the men did not receive a fair trial. In addition, it was determined that information in the case was suppressed by various law enforcement agencies with some direction by the longtime director of the Federal Bureau Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover.

The conviction and prison sentence Halim had served only added to his desire to help Aziz and Islam be freed of their convictions in the case, and in 1977 he wrote an extensive affidavit attesting to their innocence and identified other men who initiated the assassination. A year later, he went into further detail explaining his own involvement from 1964 as a member of the Newark mosque, hoping it “will clear up any doubt as to what took place in the killing of Malcolm X and the innocence of Norman Butler and Thomas Johnson.” That information was summarily ignored. Aziz has expressed that he’s forgiven Halim, and the independent historian Abdur Rahman-Muhammad, who hosted the illuminating Netflix series exploring the death of Malcolm X feels Halim’s motives were sincere and born out of penitence. “He doesn’t want to ever appear to be benefiting from what he did,” Rahman-Muhammad stated. “That’s why he doesn’t do interviews.”