Year after year, the number of African-American men being exonerated of crimes that placed them behind bars. Those of a certain age that lived in urban areas along the east coast recall how gun violence exploded upon us all in the late 80s-early 90s. Black death rates in New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. experienced record murder rates that dwarf current numbers.
It is in that environment that Valentino Dixon grew up. The admitted small-time cocaine dealer was at a party, a fight broke out over a girl, shots rang out and he was thrown in jail. Valentino’s backstory is familiar to the point of being cliche, but his road to salvation is like something out of a movie.
But there was darkness before redemption. It’s a classic case of “pin the crime on the brother”. He was serving a 39-years-to-life-sentence in Attica Correctional Facility for the 1991 killing of Torriano Jackson in August of that year.
”Kurt Loder once asked me what do I say to a dead cop’s wife/cops kill my people everyday/that’s life.”- Talib Kweli “The Proud” So many American men of African descent live in a soul-splitting world of conflicting existences. As Americans were are taught that we have inalienable rights; but as a Black men, we know that is a half-truth at best.
That first article led to more exposure for his cause from NBC/Golf Channel, CRTV.com, Fox Sports, the Georgetown University Prison Reform Project, and others.
Dixon said he became enamored with the game when a golfing warden brought in a photo of Augusta National’s 12th hole to render as a favor. From the confines of a dark, cold cell, Valentino Dixon used his imagination and meager art supplies to draw his way to freedom.
After researching his case, Golf Digest discovered that prosecutors relied on the testimony of unreliable witnesses, the public defender didn’t call a single witness at trial, perjury charges against individuals who said Dixon did not do it, and even a videotaped confession to the crime by another man named Lamar Scott, who is already serving time. Scott says prosecutor Chris Belling convinced him to pin the crime on Dixon.
A golf magazine is responsible for uncovering yet another instance of the institutional racism swallowing up a man who did not commit the crime he was accused of.
As of December 2017, Valentino Dixon had exhausted all of his appeals. But today he is free. Part of his freedom stems from the ouster of longtime Erie County district attorney Frank Sedita III and the arrival of new DA John Flynn, who supported Dixon’s release.