"The full force of the blast perforated the chest, cutting into 'the thoracic cavity, the left lung, pericardium, heart, aorta, right lung.'"
Medically, this is how Malcolm X died, according to the new book "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention," by Manning Marable.
But who fired the shotgun?
The last of Malcolm X’s three convicted assassins was paroled last year, which might seem like odd timing for questions about guilt.
But Marable’s painstakingly researched book contends some of the wrong men did time for the killing. It’s indisputable that there were several shooters.
Marable, who died days before his book’s release last week, believed a man who was never charged fired the fatal shot. And he also believed that one man who served time wasn’t even at the New York ballroom where Malcolm X died.
It’s likely the dogged pursuits of Kansas City-based legal sleuth Alvin Sykes will be involved if anything new is proved about the conspiracy-laden 1965 murder.
Sykes is responsible for a federal bill that created a unit in the Department of Justice to prosecute old civil rights era murders.
He’s requesting the Malcolm X case be reviewed and/or investigated.
Sykes enjoys tracking splinters of information as much as he covets time to ferret out arcane pieces of legal language. I’ve known him for 20 years.
Never once has he cited a federal code, a court citation, a snippet of newly unearthed evidence that I couldn’t verify.
Marable’s work includes new interviews, source documents and theories long bantered about, but never fully denied or proved. Malcolm X’s death has long been shrouded by the dealings of that era: informants, infighting among black militants, power struggles within the Nation of Islam and allegations of lackluster handling of the initial investigation.
Sykes is already at work contacting Department of Justice officials, combing legal sources to see how jurisdiction can be established and tapping networks to connect with Malcolm X’s children for their support in pressing the new leads.
The work will also help Sykes continue questioning how the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act is being implemented. It was a huge achievement when he got it passed in 2008. But that’s a moot point if more cases aren’t carefully chosen for attention and then pursued fully.
Those who argue it’s best to leave the past dead and buried tend to discount how unsolved murders — or clouded cases such as this — chase the living through the descendants of the murdered, the accused, the never fully exonerated.
Rarely are these old civil rights cases as simplistic as people wish to believe. Their nuances often challenge how we’d like to recount history.
And sometimes, it seems the truth simply won’t let itself be known until a proper amount of time has passed.