It was August 10, 1991. Outside Louie’s Texas Red Hots restaurant, a group of men began fighting. A gun was pulled and Torriano Jackson was killed.
An anonymous tip led police to Valentino Dixon, who says police had been targeting him long before the shooting. Dixon was arrested, but just two days later, Lamarr Scott confessed to the shooting and murder of Jackson. Scott’s confession did nothing to help Dixon, who was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 38-and-a-half-years to live in prison, according to a website set up for his defense.
While in prison, Dixon gained national attention for his beautiful artwork depicting golf courses. His story attracted the attention of Golf Digest in 2012, which wrote a story about his conviction and decided to help him win his freedom. In 2018, after 27 years in prison, Dixon was exonerated and released.
This week, he filed a lawsuit against the people who put him behind bars. The Buffalo News reported that Dixon has filed a civil lawsuit against the Erie County District Attorney’s Office and Buffalo Police Department seeking an unspecified amount in damages. His lawsuit alleges that the prosecutors who went after him destroyed some evidence and fabricated other evidence, and even threatened witnesses in the case.
Dixon’s lawsuit alleges that Buffalo detectives coerced three witnesses to falsely identify him as the man who murdered Jackson.
Dixon also says in his lawsuit that Buffalo police had been harassing him for a year before the shooting, “pulling him over almost every day, sometimes roughing him up and once raiding and ransacking his house.” He accused one of them of claiming the police department “would not stop” until they “gave him ten years.”
Dixon alleges in his lawsuit that former Assistant District Attorney Christopher J. Belling of doing whatever it took to convict Dixon, even destroying and fabricating evidence and intimidating witnesses.
“At the time, there was a convict-at-all-costs culture in the Erie County District Attorney’s Office,” Katie McCarthy, an attorney for Dixon, told the News.
Lamarr Scott, who had confessed to the crime just after Dixon’s arrest, said he used a gun that Dixon had given him. Police still believe that is the gun that killed Jackson.
The News reported that Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn couldn’t help himself in tearing down Dixon when he announced he was innocent of killing Jackson, calling the wrongly imprisoned man an “up-and-coming drug dealer.”
“Mr. Dixon is not an innocent man,” Flynn said. “Mr. Dixon is innocent of the shooting and of the murder for what he was found guilty of, but Mr. Dixon brought the gun to the fight.”
When Dixon was arrested, his daughter was just six months old. She has spent nearly her entire life with her father behind bars.
Dixon’s lawsuit also alleges that he is not the only one to have been wrongly imprisoned by a district attorney’s office determined to get convictions. His lawsuit also mentioned a Buffalo woman who was wrongfully convicted of murder her daughter, a Buffalo man who was wrongfully convicted of killing someone during a road rage incident, and another Buffalo man who was wrongly convicted of two sexual assaults.