A federal judge in New York City will allow the release of two men convicted of conspiring to kill Malcolm X after a wrongful conviction was overturned in a 2003 case.
Judge Lorna Schofield overturned their convictions on Monday, citing evidence suggesting they were framed, reports the New York Times.
She ordered that neither man, currently imprisoned for unrelated charges, be detained as they await a new trial. The timing of when that trial will take place is unknown, but their lawyers are hopeful it will be within months.
The two men, who go by the nickname Abdul and Abdulah, were convicted in 1991 in the shooting of two men, including Malcolm X, in the Five Points area of Manhattan.
Neither of them was ever charged with murdering Malcolm X. One of the men shot at Malcolm X was then accused of firing at a police officer, who was injured, in a botched undercover operation. The other man, only known as Donald, was not charged.
Donald, 37, and Abdul, 32, were released from prison in June 2002, after a judge overturned their convictions. Prosecutors refiled charges against them in June 2004, and they were arrested again and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. They have been released on bail since 2002.
Each man was charged with conspiring to commit murder and terrorism, and with a related weapons charge in connection with the murder of the women, two store clerks, who were fatally shot in the prime of their lives.
Lawyers for the two men argued that police did not give them information about the other shooter but used information obtained during Donald’s interrogation to charge them, the Times reports.
The new judge called their confessions by Donald “categorically untrue” and said the case against the two men was “built on an unfounded campaign of innuendo and false allegations.”
“Imprisoning Abdul and Abdulah for years has broken their spirit, damaged their relationships with family and friends, and taken away the many opportunities they could have had to excel in life,” Craig Nelsen, their lawyer, told the Times.
Nelsen has said that Donald has been in a wheelchair for about a decade, and has lost two teeth from taking a nail and an abrasion off his cheek from a police officer in New York.
Nelsen said in an interview Monday that Donald wants to be freed but has yet to decide if he will fight the decision to free his clients.
“He loves the people in the south Bronx,” Nelsen said. “He is deeply troubled that they have not heard anything about what he might do with his freedom.”