We don't know if Valentino Dixon is a murderer or not.
We know a jury concluded that he was when it convicted him of the 1991 shooting death of Torriano Jackson. But we also know that at least two new witnesses have since come forward, people who were not called to testify at Dixon's trial, but who unequivocally state that while the Buffalo man was at the scene, he did not kill Jackson.
One of them says Dixon was ducking bullets, not firing them, while the other says a man named Lamarr Scott was the shooter. Intriguingly, Scott, who is in prison on an unrelated charge, also claims to be Jackson's killer.
The tale is more complicated than that, because Dixon, who was free on bail at the time, was awaiting sentencing for having traded gunshots with a drug dealer. Scott, meanwhile, admitted he was the killer just two days after the shooting, but recanted that confession when threatened with a charge of perjury. He has since reversed again, and insists that it was he who killed Jackson.
Buffalo News reporter Anthony Cardinale has tracked this story, and has reported that Dixon's lawyers say they can produce at least half-a-dozen witnesses who will say Dixon, now serving a 39-year to life prison sentence, was not the killer. Among them is Anthony Watkins, who says he saw Dixon duck when the shooting erupted.
Watkins is a 13-year Marine Corps veteran, and a certified social worker who is pursuing a doctorate degree. He says police took his name and address at the time, but he was never contacted. Then a teenager, he says he didn't think anyone would believe him if he came forward.
None of this proves Dixon is innocent, but together, these facts raise troubling questions about the case, and that gives rise to one more thing that we know: District Attorney Frank Clark is right to take this matter seriously, and to consider the possibility that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.
Clark has expressed interest in Watkins' statement, and has agreed to review how his statement fits with that of prosecution witnesses who identified Dixon as the killer. That speaks well of Erie County's top prosecutor.
Most people who are convicted of crimes are, indeed, guilty, but as anyone who has been paying attention already knows, the system is not perfect. For a variety of reasons, from mistaken witnesses to police misconduct to incompetent defense lawyers, innocent people are sometimes convicted. Some have even been sentenced to death.
Enough questions have been raised about Dixon's case that a searching review is in order. We presume Clark will give it the diligence it deserves, and that Dixon's lawyers will be watching to be sure of it.