The case of The People of the State of New York vs Valentino Dixon comes across as bad Hollywood screenwriting rather than an actual case making its way through our criminal justice system. So many things in this case beggar belief that it’s difficult to know where to begin. There are certain points that are absolutely not in dispute.
On August 10, 1991 there was an altercation involving Torriano Jackson, Aaron Jackson, and Mario Jarmon. Wounded in the incident were Aaron Jackson, John Sullivan, and Mario Jarmon. Torriano Jackson was fatally shot. Prior to the actual shooting the Jackson brothers were assaulting Mario Jarmon. Valentino Dixon was present in the area at the time of the shooting. Lamarr Scott was present as well, along with up to as many as 85-100 other people. None of these facts are in dispute. However, everything else pertaining to this case, is.
On the night of the shooting, Mario Jarmon and Leonard Brown both gave statements to the police that Torriano Jackson was the person that shot Mario Jarmon. However, a few hours later Valentino Dixon was arrested as the lone gunman. This was based on an anonymous tip that Dixon was the shooter because of a fanciful tale of dating revenge gone wrong. After this call, and after police had firmly decided that Valentino Dixon was a suspect, John Sullivan told police that “Tino” was the shooter. On the surface this seems to bolster that anonymous call. But only on the surface.
Sullivan testified that he heard Michael Bland say “Watch out, he’s got a gun.” and without waiting to see who had the gun, he turned and ran away from the fight, heard gunshots, was struck, and turned about 100-150 yards away and saw the shooter. Keep in mind that this was at 1:30 in the morning, from at least a football field length away, looking back into what had to be a somewhat chaotic scene. Compounding the issues with this testimony is the fact that John Sullivan also admitted to having been drinking, smoking marijuana, and snorting cocaine throughout the day prior to the shooting. What’s more, the physical description he gave doesn’t match Valentino Dixon at all, not at the time of his arrest, and not now.
In fact, several of the state’s witnesses gave the same physical description. They described a shooter around 6 feet tall, with a stocky or muscular build, wearing shorts, a t-shirt, jacket, sneakers and a hat. At the time of Valentino Dixon’s arrest, he was 5 foot 7 inches tall and between 130-140 pounds, with a somewhat slight build. Even now, with weight added some 20 plus years later, he still would not match that description. You can lose and gain weight, but height is a different matter. Valentino Dixon is still not 6 feet tall. It’s safe to say that he has never before, and will never be 6 feet tall.
Lamarr Scott however did fit the physical description. Added to that, at least 3 witnesses identified Scott as the shooter, backed up by a confession on video from Lamar Scott himself – the first of several times that Lamarr Scott confessed to the shooting death of Torriano Jackson. Scott has also given statements regarding his recantation of his confession before the grand jury. He maintains that he was coerced, threatened with charges of perjury if he continued to state that he was the shooter. At least two other witnesses made this same claim, and were indeed tried for perjury when they refused to recant their testimony. In a day and age where prosecutorial misconduct comes to light more and more, it is not unreasonable to believe that these things did indeed take place.
These factors are just the tip of the iceberg. In the latest 440 motion filed by Valentino Dixon, you find out about the witnesses that were scared to come forward, the witnesses that have come forward, and most shockingly, you discover for the first time that there was exculpatory evidence never given to the defense team, a clear Brady violation. Investigations into this case have come from some of the most unlikely sources. The Golf Channel, and Golf Digest investigated this case, and most recently, three students from Georgetown University investigated as well.
In a class led by Marc Howard and exonoree-turned-professor/attorney Marty Tankleff, students Julie Fragonas, Naoya Johnson and Isobella Goonetillake investigated Valentino Dixon’s case as well. It was during this class that the prosecutor, Mr. Belling was interviewed and stated that no gunshot residue had been found on Dixon’s clothing. Prior to that one offhand comment, nobody knew his clothing had even been tested. This was not information given to the defense at the time of the trial, or at any point after. Clearly, if Valentino Dixon had been the shooter, one would reasonably expect to find GSR on his clothing. If this result wasn’t given to the defense, what other exculpatory information is being withheld, if any?
Valentino Dixon is doubling down on his claims of innocence in a way that few will. He’s throwing down the gauntlet, and challenging the state to one simple act. He is willing to have himself and all witnesses take lie detector tests. He acknowledges that they are not admissible in a court of law, but he also understands that he is battling the court of public opinion as well. He wants people to know he isn’t lying, and that he is innocent. Police have asked some witnesses, such as Pamela Yates, if they would be willing to take a lie detector. Valentino Dixon wants them to, and hopes that they will.
**Edited to Add** Thanks to Marty Tankleff, we now know that polygraph exams can be admitted in the 440 hearing in the state of New York. He has provided us with caselaw and information that could greatly help Valentino Dixon in this endeavor.
Valentino Dixon has been granted a hearing pursuant to his 440 motion. Originally scheduled for August 14, 2018 the date has now been pushed back for two weeks to August 28, 2018. Interestingly, Lamarr Scott was transferred from Cayuga Correctional Facility approximately 2 weeks ago. He is now being housed at Erie County Holding Center, awaiting interview by the state. Dixon’s defense team were not advised of this, and only found out when they went to obtain a finalized statement from Scott. Also to be noted, Lamarr Scott is up for parole in November of this year. One might question the temptation to offer help with the parole process in exchange for once again recanting his statements claiming to be the shooter.
Stranger things have happened. But for Lamarr Scott, this would be a bad idea. If he recants his testimony, you can bet plenty of people will be willing to point out to the Pardons and Paroles Board that he clearly cannot be trusted at his word. In the prison world, all a man really has is his word. That’s the most important thing he has when he is released. With recidivism rates as high as they are, and a deck stacked against him anyway, would he really want to run the risk of having to overcome that as part of his reputation? Only Lamarr Scott knows what he is willing to do at this point. But the fact remains, parole isn’t guaranteed, and continued freedom after parole isn’t guaranteed, Lamarr Scott definitely has a lot on the line no matter what he does. Only time will tell.
For more information about Valentino Dixon’s story, you can email me here, or go to the following
Or contact Eerie County District Attorney
John J. Flynn
Erie County District Attorney
25 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14202