Valentino Dixon was convicted of murdering a 17-year-old who was mowed down a hail of gunfire back in 1991, but evidence shows the man in prison until at least 2030 is innocent.
As he works on his bid for freedom, Dixon has taken up drawing, gaining notoriety for his portraits of golf courses. As his artwork draws attention, so too does his case.
Dixon was near the crowded street corner where the shooting took place on August 10, 1991. He said he could sense trouble brewing that night, and was inside a store in inner-city Buffalo buying beer when he heard gunshots.
The shooting sent four victims to the hospital, and 17-year-old Torriano Jackson was shot 27 times and killed.
Dixon was on bail for drug and weapons charges, so he went home. The next day police arrived at his home to arrest him.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Dixon said of his arrest. “I thought, ‘The truth will come out.’ ”
He was nearly right. LaMarr Scott, 18, confessed to the shooting, but investigators said he was coerced by Dixon’s family and disregarded the confession.
So Valentino Dixon went to trial, where a jury found him guilty despite no physical evidence linking him to the crime. The prosecution relied on three witnesses, while Dixon’s own lawyer refused to call a witness.
Several witnesses have since come forward to say that Dixon was not the gunman, but he still hasn’t been able to have his conviction overturned.
Many involved still doubt Dixon’s innocence.
“He’s had at least three appeal proceedings and each time the courts have upheld his conviction,” said prosecutor Christopher Belling, now senior trial counsel in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
Dixon has been spending his time in New York’s Attica State Prison working on his art. Once a promising student at a prestigious arts high school in Buffalo, he now spends his time drawing portraits of golf courses, despite the fact he’s never set foot on one.
Valentino Dixon does not deny his sketchy past. He went from an honor student to cocaine dealer in his youth, and now leaves a family behind.
“When I was a young man I wasn’t useful to society — this I don’t argue. But I’m not a murderer,” Dixon wrote in an essay for Golf Digest. “That’s the worst thing somebody can be, and I’m not that. I hope all you need to do is look at my drawings to know that.”
Valentino Dixon has many allies in his fight to prove his innocence. A website, Free Valentino Dixon, gives details of the case as well as links to his artwork.
If his conviction is not overturned, Valentino Dixon would be eligible for parole in 2030.