Just as officials predicted, the attorney for two men convicted of killing Malcolm X believes they will be exonerated within the next couple of months.
“We believe the evidence is strong enough, we are confident of that, and we’re pressing for that to happen,” Lee Watson told Newsmax.
Jurors in the case believed the men — Stanley Grant Jones and El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz — were responsible for shooting Malcolm X in December 1965. They were convicted in August 1966 and sentenced to 75 years in prison.
On Friday, prosecutors told Newsmax a motion was filed last year to dismiss the charges against the men. They claim new evidence proves the men did not kill Malcolm X.
“The existence of this photo evidence completely, completely and put the pieces of the evidence together showing that Malcolm X was killed in a drive-by shooting with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun,” he said.
Authorities believe the killers were en route to kill another outspoken African-American leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at his home when Malcolm X was killed.
New York Deputy District Attorney Steven Cohen released a statement saying they “are proceeding with the dismissal of the case” and a motion for special prosecutor was filed in January.
There were three photographs at the scene of the shooting, he said. “We now have two photos which show what we believe to be the perpetrators of the crime. The first photo is a memory picture of the victims in the shooting; the second photo, also an enhanced digital photograph, shows the perpetrators in black leather jacket and black trousers standing behind the victims at the time of the shooting.”
New York’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner announced a second autopsy of Malcolm X’s body showed no evidence of gunshots and that his cause of death was listed as sepsis due to renal failure.
“We’re going to continue to investigate the case,” Cohen said. “We believe the evidence is compelling and compelling enough to show there’s not a charge here, and we will take a look at it in the coming weeks.”
Jurors had heard recordings of a man authorities believed was Jones confessing the shooting, but he was later found not to be one of the men. But a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned a murder conviction for the men because it was not given the proper attention.
A new witness brought a retrial in 2004 and jurors again convicted the men. In 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled a new trial would be warranted because the testimony in the original trial could not be taken seriously given the flaws in the trial and after a later police investigation.
Zuhdi Jasser, a legal advisor to El-Shabazz’s family, told Newsmax he is encouraged the men will finally be exonerated.
“I believe this is a chance to undo some of the wrongs done in this country,” he said. “We feel this a new beginning. We believe the legal system will prevail.”
Watson also credited the Peter T. Lewis Foundation with assisting him in the case. In response to the court filing, the foundation stated it was “reviewing and weighing legal options.”
Using their $6.8 million lawsuit settlement with the government, the defense group has purchased Jones’ and El-Shabazz’s homes in an effort to obtain their freedom. They will house the two men at a secure facility while awaiting their eventual release.
Newsmax spoke with family members of Malcolm X, who said they do not believe the men are guilty of the murder of their father.
“I think they are innocent,” Greg El-Shabazz said. “I think they had nothing to do with his death.”
In May, El-Shabazz’s lawyer submitted a motion in the New York Court of Appeals, calling for the men’s release.
Officials with the foundation’s federal affiliate, however, said they do not plan to submit any filing in the case.
El-Shabazz’s former college roommate once wrote in his book that Jones helped plan and execute the attack against Malcolm X.
Watson said he believes Jones and El-Shabazz are innocent.
“One of the true aspects of this case is it is a black-white case,” he said. “It is not just a case where you are guilt or innocence.”