After serving 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, Valentino Dixon walked away a free man on Wednesday after work from Georgetown University Students and attention from Golf Digest brought light to his case, reports WTOP.
Dixon was sentenced to 38 years to life in 1991 following the murder of 17-year-old Torriano Jackson when he was also 17-years-old. Since his arrest, Dixon has maintained his innocence, a claim that was long held by the man who is now being charged with Jackson’s murder, Lamar Scott, who has been confessing that he was the real killer since just after the shooting took place, according to the BBC.
The case first gained major attention in 2012 when Golf Digest profiled Dixon for his hundreds of drawings of golf courses, a game that Dixon had never played but felt some sort of connection to.
“I know it makes no sense, but for some reason, my spirit is attuned to this game.”
It was the Golf Digest profile that gained the attention of several other outlets and, most importantly, the Georgetown University Prison Reform Project which saw the profile and discussion of his innocence and decided to take on the case upon learning that Scott had been confessing the murder for years.
Valentino Dixon speaking publicly for first time as a free man, since 1991. He was wrongfully convicted of a murder and exonerated this morning. pic.twitter.com/HrARq2A8T9
— WBEN NewsRadio 930AM (@NewsRadio930) September 19, 2018
Georgetown students Ellie Goonetillake, Julie Fragonas, and Naoya Johnson took a course working with the Prison Reform Project with the subject of their study being the Dixon case. One of the co-professors of the course is Marty Tankleff, who knows about wrongful imprisonment, having served 18 years himself for a murder he didn’t commit.
The key for the defense, which was led by the Georgetown students, was a discovery that the prosecutors never revealed the results of Dixon’s gunpowder test. That test came back negative and not revealing that to Dixon’s defense attorneys was a serious violation of trial procedure and should have resulted in at least a mistrial.
Along with maintaining his innocence for several decades, Dixon has asserted that witnesses on the scene asserted that he did not fire the gun but none of those witnesses were called during his trial. In another unusual move during the trial, the investigating detective didn’t testify, something that normally would occur in such a high-profile investigation.
The real killer, Scott, came forward just days after the Jackson murder, telling WRGZ-TV at the time, “I don’t want my friend to take the rap for something that I did.” Scott formally confessed to the crime on Wednesday, and now faces up to 50 years in prison.
Dixon says he now plans on maybe taking in a game of golf, something he never did before his time behind bars. But his immediate plans were perhaps a little simpler than learning a whole new sport.
“He decided he wanted to go to Red Lobster because he’s never been there.”