2 acquitted of Malcolm X murder, leading to scores of appeals and re-sentences

WASHINGTON — A Washington jury on Friday convicted a pair of convicted black militiamen in Malcolm X’s 1974 murder and an accompanying federal arson case at the center of a decades-long legal saga that questioned the police investigation of the assassination.

They will be exonerated of the murder and for their roles in the arson.

The 10-day trial at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia concluded with six guilty verdicts: two for Carlos Dwight Walker, a reformed neo-Nazi who organized a white supremacist prison gang in the 1970s; two against Philip L. Banks, the only man convicted in the killing who had been imprisoned; and one against Adrian Tyrell Bates, a reputed member of Walker’s gang. Walker and Banks face mandatory terms of life in prison. Bates, who served 18 years in a Louisiana prison for conspiracy to commit second-degree murder before his release, faces 20 years in prison, the Washington Post reported.

Walker and Banks were convicted in the arson case after a federal judge ruled that prosecutors had illegally conducted a grand jury investigation in which questions were asked about both men’s innocence.

To appeal the initial arson conviction, Banks and Walker needed to raise questions about their guilt in the 1977 killing of Malcolm X. Walker testified on the stand, saying that he and another militiaman killed Malcolm X after the murder suspect asked for their help. Walker and Banks then covered up their crime by burning down the house Malcolm X shared with his widow, Betty Shabazz, in Medgar Evers Drive, a neighborhood with striking architectural homes.

Prosecutors said that Walter H. Norwood was the only person convicted of murder in the slaying. Norwood admitted to police that he killed Malcolm X, but maintained that he did so after the assassination plot was uncovered. According to testimony at the trial, Norwood’s version of events changed over time, and to keep him in jail, the government destroyed evidence, changed witnesses’ stories and tricked others into lying.

Banks was again implicated in the killing in testimony that happened to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the murder in 2012. In what is called the “Norwood Affair,” government witnesses said that Banks was the man who chased Malcolm X across Medgar Evers Drive and shot him five times. According to those witnesses, Banks lied about the shooting and helped repair the home in what they said was an effort to conceal his involvement.

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