Valentino Dixon was found guilty of murdering Torriano Jackson in a Buffalo parking lot in August of 1991. Twenty-seven years later, and thanks to his beautiful artwork, Dixon has walked free after another suspect admitted to committing the crime.
While incarcerated, Dixon began drawing golf courses as a hobby. The depictions of the bright green landscapes were particularly impressive considering Dixon had never even been golfing before.
His first drawing of a golf course was done as a favour for the warden, James Conway, at Attica Correctional Facility. Speaking to Golf Digest, Dixon said:
“He would often stop by my cell to ask how my appeal was going and to see my drawings. Before he retired, the warden brought me a photograph of the 12th hole at Augusta National and asked if I could draw it for him. I spent 15 hours on it. The warden loved it, and it was gratifying to know my art would hang in his house.”
From there, he went on to draw dozens more. Art became an escape for him.
“It was almost like I was on the golf course,” Dixon told the Washington Post.
His inspirations were drawn from a copy of Golf Digest magazine that another inmate had lent to him. While perusing the magazine, Dixon came across Max Adler, the magazine’s editorial director and the author of a column that Dixon enjoyed titled, “Golf saved my life”.
“So I’m sitting in my cell, and I’m saying, ‘You know what? These golf drawings are pretty much saving my life,’ because I’m sitting in here for something I didn’t do and I’m on borrowed time. The drawings lifted my spirits in a way I can’t describe.”
Dixon always maintained his innocence, and upon reading Adler’s article decided that he would send him a sample of his drawings along with his case file and story. Adler was intrigued by both the story and the artwork, and set out to discover the truth surrounding Dixon’s innocence.
On May 20th, 2012, Adler published a detailed investigation of the case along with Dixon’s story told in his own words.
The story caught public interest, but most importantly, peaked the interest of Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative, who got involved in the case. The program was the final, powerful voice needed to allow Dixon’s defence team to file a motion to vacate.
The case was pretty clear-cut from the beginning – Lamarr confessed two days after Dixon’s arrest. However, the police didn’t take him seriously and believed that Dixon’s father, who had driven him to the station, had coerced him into confessing.
Lamarr then recanted his confession before the jury, but continued to re-confess after Dixon’s conviction. Yes, it’s equal-parts exhausting and upsetting.
As the revised case gained traction, previously undisclosed details began to surface. One important discovery was that Dixon’s clothes had tested negative for gun residue, and one witness revealed to police that he didn’t know if it was Dixon who had fired the killer shot.
Speaking about his fellow inmates and the corruption of the legal system, Dixon said told Golf Digest:
“Out of 2,200 inmates, you’d better believe there are a few innocents who got railroaded by the system. When you’re young and black, it can happen, and it happened to me.”
Upon his release, Dixon said that he was looking forward to trying lobster for the first time and cooking breakfast for his grandmother.
After that? Well, you can bet that a few rounds of golf are on the agenda.
Lead Image Photo Credit: Ethan Hill for Golf Digest