Why Didn't Captain Joseph Testify?

According to convicted Malcolm X assassin Norman 3X Butler, New York Temple #7 Fruit of Islam (FOI) captain Joseph X Gravitt had seen him on the morning of 21st February 1965 at the NOI’s Shabazz Restaurant in Harlem (following Butler’s visit to Jacobi Hospital) and would have thus been in a position to attest to whatever difficulty Butler claims he had in walking that day.

Captain Joseph (under whose command FOI lieutenant Butler served) had also telephoned the Butler apartment later that afternoon within minutes of Malcolm’s assassination and had (allegedly) twice spoken to Norman 3X. The FOI captain could have therefore joined Gloria 11X Wills and Juanita 8X Gibbs in having phoned (and thus placed) Butler at home at the time of Malcolm’s assassination.

Indeed, by virtue of his (alleged) in-person and over-the-phone interactions with Butler on the day of Malcolm’s killing, Captain Joseph represented a far stronger witness in Butler’s favour than either Wills or Gibbs. So why, pray tell, were Wills and Gibbs called to testify (at Captain Joseph’s behest) while the FOI captain kept himself at a safe distance?

The reasons are obvious. Had Captain Joseph been foolhardy enough to take the witness stand in Butler’s behalf, prosecutor Vincent Dermody would have run a buzz-saw through this FOI thug and unmasked him as one of the plotters in Malcolm’s slaying. After all, there was no way that either Butler or his accomplice Thomas 15X Johnson could have visited the Audubon Ballroom that day without Captain Joseph’s nod.

The FOI captain’s testimony risked dragging all of the key Temple #7 plotters in Malcolm’s murder (such as Minister James 3X McGregor, FOI chief lieutenant Clarence 7X, FOI lieutenants Alvan X Walcott and Richard 8X, FOI investigator Robert X and temple secretary Maceo X Owens) out into the open and ultimately implicated Chicago officials like NOI national secretary John X Ali and FOI supreme captain Raymond Sharieff in the atrocity.

Indeed, throughout Butler’s 1966 trial, Captain Joseph along with one of his Temple #7 henchmen Mitchel 5X Sonson had sat in the courtroom and menaced Butler and Johnson from the spectator’s gallery in a manner that recalls Michael Corleone’s threatening appearance at the Frankie Pentangeli Senate hearings in ‘Godfather II’ (and which prompted Pentangeli to change his testimony)….  

One can only hope that New York DA Cyrus Vance’s staffers have pondered these questions for themselves as they review Butler’s conviction.


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.