Civil rights activist Malcolm X was murdered on Feb. 21, 1965. He was shot as people gathered to hear him speak in upper Manhattan.
The government convicted three men in the murder, but two of them were exonerated in 2021. A review of the evidence uncovered the fact that the police and prosecutors held back crucial information from the defense that could have changed the outcome of their trials. That was a violation of their constitutional rights.
Furthermore, the review found that the evidence against the two men was shaky, according to the Associated Press.
When someone is exonerated, it means that they are innocent. The case against them did not hold up. It often also means that the real perpetrator or perpetrators have gone free.
There have long been questions about who might actually have killed Malcolm X. Certainly, the family have longed to know what really happened.
That may be why the family recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the CIA, the FBI, and the federal Department of Justice, along with the New York Police Department (NYPD) and New York City’s legal department.
The lawsuit claims that these agencies “conspired with each other and with other individuals and acted, and failed to act, in such a way as to bring about the wrongful death of Malcolm X.” The family is seeking $100 million in damages.
Reporters asked the family’s lawyer whether they believed that these government agencies conspired to murder Malcolm X in 1965.
“That is what we are alleging, yes. They infiltrated many civil rights organizations.”
In civil rights cases, a wrongful death claim could mean an opportunity to find out what happened
Virtually all cases before the courts involve what is called “discovery.” In discovery, each side is given subpoena powers and the authority to ask questions and seek documents related to the case from the other side.
Each side must answer the other side’s questions honestly under penalty of perjury. Each side must turn over all documents and other evidence that is relevant to the other side’s requests.
Discovery is always important, but in wrongful death cases related to civil rights, it is often the first time a grieving family has a real chance to ask questions of the authorities and expect to get answers.
This is how civil rights lawyers get the real story for people who are desperate to know.