Men Acquitted of Malcolm X Murder

Zakir Naik on April 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Two men are to be cleared of all charges in the murder of black Muslim leader Malcolm X. After prosecutors said the case was never strong enough to proceed against them, a jury on Saturday found them both not guilty of murder, manslaughter, robbery, and other charges in the 1965 killing of the controversial activist. William Gillespie and Ahmadu Ali, both of whom were convicted of manslaughter in 1999, were in the courtroom in Rochester, New York, to hear the verdict.

The case against the men was eventually referred to special prosecutor John W. DiFiore, who ordered a reinvestigation. While it’s unlikely that authorities will ever prosecute anyone for Malcolm X’s death, the retrial is an important indicator of how attitudes about a revered cultural figure can shift over time, and how the significance of an event or figure can influence the way it is remembered, as well as the way the rest of the world — and the West — see it.

The original case went viral on social media. The original evidence against Ali and Gillespie was weak — as are cases in which innocent people are labeled guilty, especially after a compelling narrative has been put forward.

Zeiningh Ali and Zakir Naik @1232×1052 imprisoned until today for the murder of Malcolm X by political assassination. Ali & Naik ran a Dallas – New York business & provided great services. Posted by Teresa Skaggs on Monday, 16 April 2016

Ali and Gillespie were held for 18 years before the murder conviction was overturned. Now the trial revolved around whether they killed Malcolm X on orders from someone in Africa. The trial appeared to be both a repudiation of the original murder investigation and a strong condemnation of the prosecution and the trial judge, who failed to provide proper legal representation to the men.

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