FILE – In this Nov. 21, 2013 file photo reviewed by the U.S. military, dawn arrives at the now closed Camp X-Ray, which was used as the first detention facility for al-Qaida and Taliban militants who were captured after the Sept. 11 attacks, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. The Pentagon announced Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, that fifteen prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center were released to the United Arab Emirates in the single largest transfer of detainees during the Obama administration. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
In August of 1991, Torriano Jackson was shot dead in front of Louie’s Texas Red Hots restaurant in Buffalo, New York. The authorities arrested Valentino Dixon for his murder based on an anonymous tip. He was later convicted and sentenced to 38-and-a-half years to life in prison for killing Jackson. But there was one problem.
Dixon did not commit the murder.
After serving 27 years in prison, Dixon was exonerated and released in 2018 after Lamarr Scott, 46, admitted to the murder. The inmate, who was incarcerated for a different shooting, explained that he was involved in the fight that occurred in front of the restaurant. In court, Scott stated that when the fight broke out, his first instinct was to find a gun that Dixon had given him previously. “I grabbed the gun,” he said. “I pulled the trigger and all the bullets came out. Unfortunately, Torriano ended up dying.”
Now, Dixon is filing a lawsuit against the Buffalo Police Department and Erie County District Attorney’s Office for his wrongful conviction. His attorney, Donald Thompson, stated that his lawsuit will uncover a culture within the city’s justice system that led to other wrongful arrests.
“The culture of the Buffalo Police Department at the time was kind of a wild west show,” said Thompson. “There weren’t a lot of restrictions in place. I don’t think they had the procedures in place, that they may have now.”
The lawyer explained that stories about police violating rights were “not uncommon” during the 1980s and 1990s. The suit alleges that the detectives working Dixon’s case coerced three witnesses to falsely label him as the perpetrator of the murder. It also claims that the police had been harassing Dixon for a year before the shooting despite the fact that he did not have a criminal record. According to the lawsuit, the police were “pulling him over almost every day, sometimes roughing him up and once raiding and ransacking his house.”
Dixon garnered national attention during his time in prison for his artwork depicting golf courses. He was noticed by Golf Digest in 2012, and the magazine published a story about his conviction and worked to help him get his freedom.
Along with coercing and threatening witnesses, the lawsuit claims the police department also fabricated evidence implicating Dixon in the murder. It also states that the authorities destroyed evidence that could have exonerated him.
Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn pushed back against the accusations, claiming that Dixon was an “up-and-coming drug dealer.” Flynn also 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.”
Of course, Dixon having a firearm when the fight erupted isn’t a crime unless he possessed the weapon illegally — which has not been established. Carrying a gun for self-defense is not against the law. Moreover, there does not appear to have been any evidence suggesting that Dixon gave Scott the gun knowing that he would commit the murder. Either way, it does not justify imprisoning a man for two and a half decades for a crime he did not commit.
It’s not yet clear what evidence Dixon has of wrongdoing on the part of the police department and district attorney’s office, but if his claims are true, it demonstrates yet another example of corruption in Buffalo’s police department. By the way, Buffalo is not exactly a bastion of conservative governance.
Most of the cities in which police corruption thrives are run by progressive politicians who seem to have no interest in holding their law enforcement agencies accountable when they push the boundaries. Unfortunately, this type of corruption is a feature of leftist rule, not a bug.
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