Documentary Directed by RPJ Client Phil Bertelsen Reopens Malcolm X Assassination, Exonerates Three Men

This week, The New York Times reported that the convictions of two of the three men charged in the death of civil rights leader Malcolm X will be overturned, after the 2020 documentary series “Who Killed Malcolm X?” led to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office reopening the case.

Directed by RPJ client Phil Bertelsen alongside Rachel Dretzin, the six-episode series ties Malcolm X’s 1965 assassination to William Bradley, who many experts believe fired the fatal shotgun instead. This raised questions over the innocence of Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam, who have each been incarcerated more than 20 years.

Since the documentary, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office embarked on a 22-month investigation on the case. Last week, a judge formally overturned the convictions of Aziz and Islam, who died in 2009.

Bertelsen hopes the exonerations will raise even more questions about the federal government’s role in the assassination.

The exonerations of Aziz and Islam are the latest cases in which documentaries have led to changes within the justice system, Ashley Fetters Maloy wrote for The Washington Post. Prosecutors quoted footage from the HBO’s The Jinx in the recent trial of real estate heir Robert Durst, the subject of the documentary, where he appears to confess to murder. Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly led to the conviction of the R&B singer on nine federal sex trafficking and racketeering charges.