Malcolm X murder investigation timeline: Decades of doubt

Manhattan's district attorney announced Wednesday that he would ask a court to vacate the convictions of two of the three men convicted of murdering civil rights leader Malcolm X in 1965. 

Here is a timeline of key dates related to the assassination and the prosecution of the men originally said to be his killers:

March 9, 1964

Once a leading spokesman for Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam, Malcolm X announces that he is breaking with Muhammad's Black Muslim group and organizing his own.

Feb. 14, 1965

A firebomb tossed through a window explodes in Malcolm X's living room in Queens, hours before dawn. He flees the burning house with his wife and four children.

Feb. 21, 1965

Three gunmen kill Malcolm X as he begins a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights. He is 39. Mujahid Abdul Halim, then known as Talmadge Hayer or Thomas Hagan, 23, is arrested at the scene after being shot in the leg by a bodyguard.

Feb. 26, 1965

Muhammad Aziz, 26, then known as Norman 3X Butler, is arrested in the assassination.

March 3, 1965

Kahlil Islam, 30, then known as Thomas 15X Johnson, is arrested in the killing. Both he and Aziz insist they are innocent and offer alibis.

Malcolm X

Civil rights activist El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (aka Malcolm X and Malcolm Little) poses for a portrait on Feb. 16, 1965, in Rochester, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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Feb. 28, 1966

Halim admits during the trial that he took part in the killing but insists that his two co-defendants weren't involved.

March 11, 1966

Halim, Islam, and Aziz are convicted of murder.

April 14, 1966

All three defendants are sentenced to life in prison.

Dec. 6, 1977

Halim files an affidavit stating that his two co-defendants are innocent, naming four other co-conspirators.

MLK and Malcolm X

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X waiting for a press conference in 1964. (U.S. News & World Report photo by Marion S. Trikosko via Library of Congress)

June 1985

Aziz is released on parole.


Islam is released on parole.

Nov. 1992

Halim's request for early release from a New York prison is turned down.

March 1998

Aziz is appointed to help run the Harlem mosque where Malcolm X once preached.

Aug. 2009

Kahlil Islam dies, 22 years after his release from prison.

March 3, 2010

The state of New York grants Halim's parole on his 17th try.

Smiling Malcolm X, half-length portrait, facing right, wearing glasses, suit, tie and small microphone

Malcolm X in 1964. (World Telegram & Sun photo by Ed Ford via Library of Congress)

April 27, 2010

Halim is freed.

Apri, 2011: Historian Manning Marable publishes "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention," a biography that concludes Aziz and Islam are innocent and brings new attention to claims that some of the actual killers were still at large. It wins a Pulitzer Prize.

Feb. 7, 2020

Netflix begins streaming episodes of "Who Killed Malcolm X?" The six-part documentary examines the assassination and evidence that members of Halim's Nation of Islam mosque in Newark, N.J., were behind the killing. The Manhattan district attorney's office says it will consider reopening the investigation.

Nov. 17, 2021

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announces that his office will ask a court to exonerate Islam and Aziz. Lawyers for the men say a nearly two-year-long investigation found that authorities withheld evidence favorable to the defense during the trial.

Nov. 18, 2021

Manhattan judge Ellen Biben dismisses the convictions of Aziz and Islam.