Golf Digest helps in setting prisoner free.
A man wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years has been freed, and Golf Digest as well as the media played a significant role.
Valentino Dixon, 48, had been serving a 39-years-to life sentence in New York for the 1991 killing of Torriano Jackson. However, inside his 6×10 cell, Valentino Dixon had drawn the interest of Golf Digest with his stunning drawings of golf courses. Even though he’d never hit a ball, or even set foot on a golf course, Dixon crafted intricate, warm, portraits of golf courses from around the world.
Dixon started this hobby when a warden asked him to draw Augusta’s 12th.
The art, depicting colorful, detailed “golf-scapes,” gave Dixon peace as he served time for a murder he didn’t commit, the inmate wrote in a letter to Golf Digest. The letter prompted the publication to look into Dixon’s case—and notice that something seemed off about his conviction.
“The guys can’t understand,” Dixon told Golf Digest. “They always say I don’t need to be drawing this golf stuff. I know it makes no sense, but for some reason my spirit is attuned to this game.”
The reporter for Golf Digest, Max Adler, wrote an article back in 2012 about Dixon’s case after doing some investigation of his owe that gained national attention.
The reporter began investigating the specifics of Dixon’s case when he found some serious discrepancies. This led to an investigation by the Georgetown University Prison Reform Project.
The effort provided new evidence—including a confession by another inmate to the 1991 crime—that was presented to the new district attorney in Buffalo, New York.
Wrongfully imprisoned, finally released.
“The case is complicated,” Adler writes, “but on the surface it involves shoddy police work, zero physical evidence linking Dixon, conflicting testimony of unreliable witnesses, the videotaped confession to the crime by another man, a public defender who didn’t call a witness at trial, and perjury charges against those who said Dixon didn’t do it. Altogether, a fairly clear instance of local officials hastily railroading a young black man with a prior criminal record into jail.”
The story led to more media outlets covering Dixon’s case, which in turn led to grassroots campaigns and pro bono efforts by New York attorneys.
The newly created Erie County (N.Y.) district attorney’s wrongful convictions unit took another look at Dixon’s story, and found enough evidence to vacate his conviction. Not to mention another individual pleaded guilty to the murder who apparently had admitted responsibility for the murder decades ago.
After 27 years of imprisonment, Dixon finally had his conviction thrown out last week, and he walked out free, surrounded by family, friends, and the Golf Digest journalist who took up his cause: Max Adler. After Dixon’s release, Adler, now Golf Digest’s editorial director, celebrated Dixon’s first meal at a Red Lobster.
According to Adler, Dixon is going to work to help exonerate other inmates who have been wrongfully convicted. And that’s not the only thing he has to look forward to: The two have plans to get on a golf course and hit a few balls around.
For a look at the golf art that kept Dixon going during his long years in prison, click here.