Valentino Dixon said he had barely even heard of golf growing up. He grew up in the city, never setting foot on a fairway. Thus, he could have never expected the pivotal role it would come to play in his life. BBC reported on his incredible story, which starts with his artistic flair getting him noticed.
Dixon had been serving a sentence for murder for nearly two decades at Attica Correctional Facility when it happened. A guard noticed his artistic talent and presented him with a photograph of the famed twelfth hole at the Augusta National Golf Course and asked him to draw it.
"After 19 years in Attica Correctional Facility, the look of a golf hole spoke to me," said Dixon. "It seemed peaceful. I imagine playing it would be a lot like fishing."
He used colored pencils to create incredibly realistic, lush drawings of famous fairways. The drawings garnered attention from Golf Digest, which ran a profile of the prisoner in 2012 and featured some of his work.
"Maybe one day I'll get to play the game I've only imagined," Dixon said in the earlier article. He discussed drawing landscapes he had never seen in real life, and expressed a desire to take up golf once he was finally out.
His talent and emotion caught the attention of wrongful-conviction advocates, who felt the evidence in Dixon's case was not sufficient for a conviction. Dixon was convicted and sentenced to 38 years in prison in 1991 for the murder of 17-year-old Torriano Jackson. The prosecution made the case that Dixon murdered Jackson over a fight about a girl.
However, Dixon maintains that while he was at the scene, he did not shoot Jackson. He maintains that he was at a nearby shop, purchasing beer, when the shooting occurred. He also stated there were multiple witnesses who would have testified to the fact that he did not fire the gun.The advocates at Georgetown University's Prisons and Justice Initiative uncovered an even more serious issue with the case, however. Prosecutors had not disclosed to Dixon's defense attorney that the gunpowder test run on their client's clothes had come back negative. Prosecutors must share all evidence uncovered with the defense, even if it hurts their case.
Another man, Lamarr Scott, had also confessed to the murder days later in the media, saying he didn't want Dixon to go to prison for his crime.
Eventually, prosecutors acknowledged this fact.
"Mr. Scott has been confessing to this crime since 12 August 1991," Assistant District Attorney Sara Dee told the court. "He has confessed to this crime in excess of 10 times."
Lamarr finally formally confessed and Dixon was released. He was greeted by his daughter, who was a baby when he went to jail. She is now 27 and has twins of her own.