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DA OPEN TO NEW WITNESS IN '91 KILLING

The Erie County district attorney's office has expressed interest in a witness who has come forward to say that Valentino Dixon wasn't the man who shot Torriano Jackson to death with a semiautomatic weapon in 1991, according to Dixon's lawyers.

District Attorney Frank J. Clark met Thursday with Dixon's lawyers, Gregory McPhee and Sean D. Hill. Clark had no comment after the meeting.

Dixon, now 35, is serving 39 years to life in Attica Correctional Facility for the murder of Jackson on Aug. 10, 1991. Dixon is appealing Senior County Judge Michael L. D'Amico's ruling on Aug. 30, denying his request for a hearing for a new trial.

The new witness, Anthony Watkins, came forward after reading articles in The Buffalo News. Clark announced Sept. 27 that he would review the Dixon file to see whether there was any "miscarriage of justice" in 1991.

"Essentially, we have to prove his innocence," McPhee said after the meeting with Clark. "Once you are convicted, you lose the presumption of innocence. But Mr. Clark said that if there's a potential of Dixon being innocent, he's obligated to review the case."

McPhee and Hill said Clark agreed to review additional information they plan to provide about Watkins. Watkins is a social worker who counsels young people and is working on a doctorate at Canisius College. The lawyers said Clark is interested in how Watkins' testimony fits with that of prosecution witnesses who identified Dixon as the killer.

Watkins has no connection to the Dixon family, who had assembled several witnesses to the killing, and may offer new evidence, according to defense lawyers.

Watkins, 31, told The News he was in the crowd outside Louie's Texas Red Hots at Bailey and East Delavan avenues at 1:30 a.m. when Jackson, 17, was shot to death and three other youths were wounded.

Dixon's request for a hearing was already in D'Amico's hands at the time Watkins came forward, so the judge didn't address Watkins when he denied Dixon's request for a hearing. Hill said a new motion will be brought before D'Amico, based on Watkins' affidavit. Meanwhile, the denial of the original motion continues on its way to the Appellate Division for review.

Lamarr Scott has told authorities he killed Jackson, but his confession was rejected by police and prosecutors.

e-mail: acardinale@buffnews.com

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