The Butler Did It

As former O.J. Simpson defence attorney and Innocence Project cofounder, Barry Scheck, leads an unceremonious stampede to absolve what would be the second celebrity murderer in his otherwise distinguished legal career, he might wish to review the following concerns regarding his new star client, the accused Malcolm X assassin Muhammad Abdul Aziz aka Norman 3X Butler of the Nation of Islam’s (NOI) Harlem Temple. 

Since the February 7th release of the six-part Netflix documentary Who Killed Malcolm X there has been a rush to exonerate Mr Butler that strikes many who have long studied this case as being most unseemly in its haste. Mr Butler (along with his fellow accused assassin, the late Khalil Islam aka Thomas 15X Johnson), for all their presumed innocence, were brutal NOI enforcers affiliated with Harlem’s Temple #7 and are believed to have participated in the firebomb attack that was carried out on Malcolm’s home some 55 years ago this very month.

That atrocity was reportedly perpetrated at the direction of Boston Temple #11’s ‘Captain’ Clarence 2X Gill following his promotion over Temple #7’s ‘Captain’ Joseph X Gravitt at an infamous 28th June 1964 NOI meeting which Mr Butler sought to downplay as a ‘hype talk’ affair during a disingenuous interview that appears in the otherwise excellent Netflix series.  

At that infamous gathering, held in New York City at a time when the NOI was locked in a bitter legal dispute with Malcolm over his East Elmhurst residence, the organisation’s ‘Assistant Supreme Captain’, Elijah Muhammad Jr., issued a despicable and unambiguous order for Malcolm’s home to be destroyed in a terrorist act believed to have been carried out, months later, by Mr Butler in concert with Mr Johnson and Mr Gill.

Said Elijah Jr.: “That house is ours, and the ni**er don't want to give it up. Well, all you have to do is go out there and clap on the walls until the walls come tumbling down, and then cut the ni**er's tongue out and put it in an envelope and send it to me, and I'll stamp it approved and give it to the Messenger...”

While the 14th February fire-bombing of Malcolm’s home that resulted from that directive was a different matter to his eventual 21st February 1965 assassination, it was an act of attempted murder in which Mr Butler is believed to have participated. And at the behest of the same Mr Gill, both Mr Butler and Mr Johnson may have, a few days later, been amongst the cadre of Temple #7 paramilitaries stationed outside the Audubon Ballroom for the purpose of assisting the Newark Temple #25 gunmen, once their murderous assignment was complete, to make good their escape. 

Even if it were true that Mr Butler was at home “nursing an injured leg” at the time of Malcolm’s assassination, that is no evidence that he wasn’t a party to the crime. For if it could be established that Mr Butler had prior knowledge of the plot to murder Malcolm that Sunday afternoon and did nothing to notify the authorities, then Mr Butler would be liable, under RICO or any other relevant conspiracy law, as an accessory to the killing.

There is ample reason to suspect that Mr Butler was made privy to plans to murder Malcolm by the NOI’s former ‘National Secretary’ (and suspected FBI informant) John X Ali at a February 1965 meeting held in New York City. That gathering was also attended by the aforementioned Mr Johnson and several Temple #7 ‘lieutenants’ and all of whom were tasked with providing assistance to the Temple #25 assassins should they encounter any difficulty in fleeing the Audubon Ballroom.

It is therefore incumbent on Mr Scheck and his colleagues at the Innocence Project, as well as those in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office who are reviewing Mr Butler’s case, to engage the Justice Department in securing the declassification of all NYPD and FBI files relating to the 14th February attack on Malcolm’s home – along with all other materials pertaining to the numerous attempts on Malcolm’s life which occurred in the New York area, and were routinely notified to the police, during the 1964-5 period.

For they may reveal much that would establish that ‘Norman 3X’ has far more in common with Orenthal James Simpson than he does the Central Park Five and that, with no pun intended, ‘the Butler did it’ after all.


Paul Bitakaramire is a freelance writer based in Manchester who has previously been published in Britain’s Spectator magazine and has launched a petition to secure the declassification of the FBI and CIA files on the Malcolm X assassination. That petition can be found here.

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