Malcolm X bio doubts activist was served justice

NEW YORK - It's been 46 years since Malcolm X was gunned down in New York. The details were always murky. As CBS News national correspondent Jim Axelrod reports, a new biography of the controversial activist shines a new light on his murder and has sparked a new call for justice.

"Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention," the new book by Columbia University professor Manning Marable, outlines why the investigation should be reopened. Marable died last week, just before publication.

Zaheer Ali, Marable's chief researcher, said, "Professor Marable believed in justice. And his killers were never served justice."

On Feb. 21, 1965, Malcolm X was speaking to several hundred people at the Audubon Ballroom in upper Manhattan when three men suddenly stood up in the front rows and opened fire.

Talmadge Hayer was caught at the scene and confessed to being one of the gunmen. Twelve years later, he signed affidavits claiming two other men, who both served long sentences, had nothing to do with the shooting.

David Garrow, historian and author, said, "As Marable's quite powerful book details, four of the actual assassins never were pursued and at least one of them still lives openly in the metro New York area."

The book claims the New York Police Department knew Malcolm X's life was in danger but turned the other way in the face of threats.

By almost any standard, the investigation at the Audubon Ballroom was shoddy. Four hours after Malcolm X was shot, the Audubon was reopened for a church dance. The crime scene was cleaned up before a full forensic analysis could be done.

"There were still bullet holes in the wall when this dance party was taking place," Ali said. "So these kinds of questions are the kinds of questions this book raises."

Police deny a cover-up. But in his last interview, Marable told CBS News he wanted the Justice Department to reopen the case. Now plenty of people wait to see if this last wish will be granted.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

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