Despite an increasing level of uncertainty surrounding his conviction, Valentino Dixon continues to be imprisoned at the Attica Correctional facility in upstate New York for a 1991 crime that another man has confessed to.
Dixon told the Associated Press he was near a street corner on the East Side of Buffalo, New York when he heard someone firing a gun into a crowd. Four people were sent to the hospital but Torriano Jackson, 17, was killed after being shot 27 times.
Now 43 years old, Dixon said he could sense trouble brewing at the time and went directly home after overhearing the shooting from inside a liquor store. He was on bail for drug and weapons possession at the time. The following day, police showed up at his door to arrest him.
“I wasn’t nervous,” he told the Associated Press from inside the maximum security penitentiary. “I thought, ‘The truth will come out.’”
“To this day, I’m trying to figure out why they arrested me in the first place,” he said, adding that more witnesses have come forward to testify to Dixon's innocence. “I’ve been drawing the golf courses ever since.”
“He’s had at least three appeal proceedings and each time the courts have upheld his conviction,” said Belling, now a senior trial counsel in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
Lamar Scott, then 18, confessed to the shooting, but Dixon says Prosecutor Christopher Belling inexplicably ignored the admission, saying Dixon’s family had coerced the statement from Scott.
Dixon’s case has attracted attention as his artwork has gained notoriety. He now spends between 10 and 12 hours a day using colored pencils to draw pictures of golf courses and other serene outdoor settings. His case was profiled on the Golf Channel show “In Play” in March of this year and, according to the Buffalo News, Dixon’s work has been published in Golf Digest magazine.
The attention has not been enough to sway Belling, however, who maintains that Dixon, not Scott, murdered Jackson.
While her son is not due to be released until 2030, Barbara Dixon insisted to the Buffalo News that Valentino, who dealt cocaine as a teen, is now a productive member of society. Making the story even more remarkable is that Dixon has never set foot on a golf course.
“I go and pick up his drawings every two months from the prison, and when I look at them I feel amazed and proud,” she told the Buffalo News last month. “This is not the artwork of a murderer.”