Valentino Dixon was serving a 39-years-to-life sentence for a 1991 murder he did not commit, in Buffalo, N.Y. It wasn’t until Golf Digest did a profile of him, that his case caught the interest of some people to address the mistakes that led to him being convicted of a crime he did not commit… including an admission from the man who actually shot the victim. The prosecutor even charged two men who corroborated the accusation of the actual story with perjury. The perjury charges prevented those men from testify to the truth in Dixon’s trial. The actual shooter says he was pressured to change his story. While Dixon was facing charges, the other man was out of custody, and has since been incarcerated in the same prison for shooting a different person in the face.
The case came to light when Dixon was profiled in Golf Digest about the golf course drawings he did in prison, as part of a regular column they did called “Golf Saved My Life.” Max Adler, the columnist, was so interested in Dixon’s story, he initiated the investigation that eventually led to Dixon’s acquittal, which still took another six years. Dixon walked out of prison this week a free man. I’d like to take him out for a golf lesson.
It’s a really cool story, and a stark reminder of the importance of journalism in our country. It’s sad it took 27 years, in spite of the witnesses for Dixon. Golf Channel and NBC also picked up the story and provided important momentum to right this wrong:
Jonathan Fleming: Exonerated
USA Today did a thorough piece (with video) the other day about how difficult it is for wrongfully convicted exonorees to survive when they get out. Only some states have compensation laws, and even then, it can take months or even years for them to be compensated for the time that was taken away from them. The story features Jonathan Fleming, who we covered recently after his release 24 years after being arrested for a crime that occurred in New York while he was in Disney World.
Often, prosecutors resist allowing such cases to be reopened. I again commend the District attorney in New York, who has a unit to review cases like this, and was proactive in revisiting many cases already. I wish States would look at this as a positive think… fighting for real justice. Ultimately, it is in the State’s benefit to revisit these cases experdiently: the less time the wrongfully convicted spend in prison, the less they need to be compensated, and the faster real justice can be served. The Fleming case has brought issues to light (the receipt proving his innocence was in his pocket when he was arrested, but it was suppressed), that call many more convictions into question. Nobody is served if the wrong person is convicted, and the real criminals are free to strike again.
Read and watch on USA today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/05/04/wrongfully-convicted-suffer-long-after-release/8480237/
Jonathan Fleming: Exonerated
Many wrongful convictions have been set aside in recent years thanks to advances in technology, such as DNA testing. This is not one of those cases.
Over 24 years ago, Jonathan Fleming was charged with a murder in New York. He professed his innocence, and had an alibi: he was in Florida visiting Disney World when the murder happened. He said that he even had a phone receipt for the phone calls he made from his hotel the night before, in addition to photos and home videos at Disney from around that time. The receipt was in his pocket when he was arrested, but was hidden by the police. The only witness accusing him later said she made up the allegations to avoid going back to jail for her parole violation.
That witness said police pushed her to make up the accusations against Fleming. The phone call receipt has since been located, confirming that police withheld it in the seal to get a conviction. While he has been exonerated, Fleming will never get to relive the 24 and a half years he spent in prison. The law enforcement involved should take a lot of heat for this, but some credit should go to the Conviction Review Unit of the prosecutor’s office, that was willing to take another look and reopen the case. Meanwhile, there are 50 more convictions from the same detective that have been called into question. #badcops
After 17 years in prison, Gloria Killian was exonerated for the role she didn’t play in planning a robbery-murder. Joyce Ride, the mother of the first female astronaut, Sally Ride, befriended Killian in prison, and hired a private investigator to look into the case. She ended up spending about $100,000 of her own money on the cause, but the PI uncovered evidence that her accusser (one of the actual perpetrators of the crime) had received leniency to testify against her. The prosecutors had cut a deal with the actual perpetrator to make their case against an innocent woman, and then covered it up. There was also a letter from him admitting he had lied in his testimony. CNN did an in-depth write up, and its worth a read. http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/14/us/death-row-stories-killian/index.html?hpt=hp_c3
Thestory.org has another telling of the story.
Also, Killian has a book.
Time’s Adam Cohen highlights a few key instances, and studies showing that it happens far more often than one might think. This short article is worth a read.