Golf artist wrongly convicted of murder freed after 27 years in US jail

20 September 2018, 03:06 | Updated: 20 September 2018, 12:11

An artist who spent 27 years in jail for the murder of a teenager has been freed after his conviction was overturned.

Valentino Dixon, who always maintained his innocence, found fame while behind bars in the US through his vivid drawings of golf courses.

He walked free on Wednesday after another man formally confessed to the murder of 17-year-old Torriano Jackson, who was shot dead in Buffalo, New York in 1991.

In emotional scenes outside New York's Erie County Court, Mr Dixon hugged his mother, daughter and several other relatives and friends following his release.

"I love y'all," Dixon shouted. "It feels great."

A judge had earlier accepted a guilty plea from Lamarr Scott, who had initially admitted killing Jackson to local media two days after it happened.

Scott is already serving a 25-year prison sentence for an unrelated attempted murder.

He told the court he got hold of the semi-automatic gun used to shoot Jackson from Mr Dixon.

Both men had driven together to the scene of the murder when fighting broke out, Scott said.

"Shots were fired," he told the court.

"I grabbed the gun from under the bench, switched it to automatic, all the bullets shot out."

After Mr Dixon's release from prison, Erie County district attorney John Flynn said the newly-freed man had "brought the gun to the fight".

He 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. It was Mr Dixon's gun."

While behind bars, Mr Dixon rekindled his childhood passion for drawing, often spending 10 hours a day creating vivid coloured pencil landscapes of golf courses.

Articles in Golf Digest and other publications had drawn public attention to the case.

A documentary was also produced by Georgetown University students as part of a prison reform course.

Mr Dixon's daughter, Valentina, who was a baby when he was sent to prison, brought her 14-month-old twins, Ava and Levi, to meet him outside court.

"We're definitely going to go shopping and go explore life," she said. "I can't wait to get him a cellphone and teach him how to Snapchat."

Mr Dixon's mother, Barbara Dixon, said she was in shock after relying on her faith while fighting for his release.

"We're going to Red Lobster," she said. "And everybody's invited."