In 2012, Golf Digest published a first-person essay by Valentino Dixon (co-written with Max Adler, the magazine’s editorial director). Dixon had never played golf, never even stepped foot on a golf course; he was an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility in New York. He was serving 39-to-life for a 1991 murder.
The magazine ran the story because Dixon drew golf courses. “Something about the grass and sky was rejuvenating,” he wrote of drawing his very first golf hole in the essay. But in addition to his art, Dixon had another interesting story to tell: He was innocent of the murder. Someone else did it.
Everyone in prisons says that, of course, but Golf Digest investigated, and found witnesses, and ran Adler’s story about Dixon’s innocence alongside the first-person essay. It led to a flurry of coverage from other news outlets. Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative got involved. A movement to free him began.
Today, Dixon’s conviction was vacated. He was released from prison after another man, Lamarr Scott, confessed to the crime. Golf Digest got a man out of prison!
Adler has a story today on the Golf Digest website about Dixon, calling the case “a fairly clear instance of local officials hastily railroading a young black man with a prior criminal record into jail.” He also gets a great quote from Donald Thompson, one of the lawyers who filed a recent motion to free Dixon from prison:
“Once a case crosses a certain threshold of media attention, it matters, even though it shouldn’t,” Thompson says. “It’s embarrassing for the legal system that for a long time the best presentation of the investigation was from a golf magazine.”
And now Dixon is free. Thanks to Golf Digest! Someone get this man a set of golf clubs.