Malcolm X's family will file a $100 million lawsuit alleging a coverup of his death
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
The family of Malcolm X says it plans to file a $100 million wrongful death suit against the New York Police Department, the FBI and other government agencies. The family members say they believe officials conspired to kill the civil rights leader, then covered it up. Samantha Max of member station WNYC is on the line. She was with the family yesterday on the 58th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. Good morning, Samantha.
SAMANTHA MAX, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.
FADEL: So you were with the family. Can you give us the details of what they say they believe happened?
MAX: So the family believes that government officials, all the way up to the head of the FBI at the time, actually wanted Malcolm X dead and played a role in his assassination. They also believe that officials concealed evidence in the investigation into his murder and allowed two men to be wrongfully convicted for the killing. So the family has brought in the attorney Ben Crump. You might have heard his name because he's represented loved ones in several high-profile cases of people killed by police, including George Floyd. Crump filed paperwork yesterday alerting dozens of government officials and agencies that the family is getting ready to sue. And I should say that those agencies either couldn't be reached or declined to comment.
FADEL: As I mentioned, yesterday marked 58 years since Malcolm X was assassinated. So why now? Why the - file this lawsuit all these years later?
MAX: So in 2021, two men who were convicted of murdering Malcolm X and spent decades in prison were exonerated. That came after the Manhattan District Attorney's Office worked with the Innocence Project and other attorneys to review their convictions. And they found that the FBI and the NYPD had withheld evidence that could have cleared these men of wrongdoing. So a judge ended up throwing out the convictions. And last fall, New York City agreed to pay them each $13 million.
FADEL: Where does the criminal case stand with those exonerations?
MAX: So another man, Mujahid Halim, had confessed to the killing at trial, and he's long maintained that the others were innocent. So he spent more than 40 years in prison and has been out on parole since 2010. In an affidavit, he said that he and some other men had planned the killing because they thought that Malcolm X was a hypocrite who wasn't loyal to the leader of the Nation of Islam.
FADEL: But the family thinks it's bigger than that. They think it's part of a larger government conspiracy. Is this lawsuit a bid for accountability here?
MAX: I mean, part of it is definitely just personal. They want money for the trauma that they've endured. Two of Malcolm X's daughters who just announced this lawsuit were actually at the Audubon Ballroom where - when their father was shot during his speech. The press conference yesterday was in that same room.
But it's definitely about more than that. They also want answers. Historians, investigative journalists, attorneys and even government officials have, for years and years, been raising questions about this case. But as the family's attorney said, much of it has just been speculation up to this point. So if you file a lawsuit, you can go through the discovery process. That means you can get all kinds of records and documents. And their attorneys would also have the opportunity to interview officials in the case, at least the ones who, all these years later, are still alive. And they say that would bring some transparency, not just for the family, but also for the public.
FADEL: So they want to know. That's WNYC's Samantha Max. Thanks for your reporting on this, Sam.
MAX: Thanks for having me.
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