After 27 years in prison, a man who loves golf walked free today. Not only that, he was given back his innocence. Of course, the state can regift innocence about as capably as it can 27 years.No simplistic conclusions to be drawn. As Adler acknowledges, its complicated. But a whitebread golfing magazine instigating a reinvestigation of an African-American drug dealer wrongfully convicted of murder and assisting in his eventual exoneration? Pretty astounding clash of tropes.
Nevertheless, the Erie County District Court in Buffalo, N.Y., has vacated the murder conviction of Valentino Dixon, 48, who was serving a 39-years-to-life sentence—the bulk of it in the infamous Attica Correctional Facility—for the 1991 killing of Torriano Jackson. On that hot August night long ago, both were at a loud street party with underage drinking when a fistfight over a girl turned to gunfire.
But before we dive into what really happened, a quick refresher on why golfers might care extra about Valentino Dixon. Six years ago, Golf Digest profiled this inmate who grinds colored pencils to their nubs drawing meticulously detailed golf-scapes. Although Dixon has never hit a ball or even stepped foot on a course, the game hooked him when a golfing warden brought in a photograph of Augusta National’s 12th hole for the inmate to render as a favor. In the din and darkness of his stone cell, the placid composition of grass, sky, water and trees spoke to Dixon. And the endless permutations of bunkers and contours gave him a subject he could play with.
“The guys can’t understand,” Dixon has said. “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.”
It took about a hundred drawings before Golf Digest noticed, but when we did, we also noticed his conviction seemed flimsy. So we investigated the case and raised the question of his innocence.
Infinite improbability drive for those not on the cutting edge of physics.