|The Buffalo News
MYSTERY WITNESS TALKS OF KILLING
FINDING THE TRUTH PROVES A DIFFICULT TASK
Date: Monday, July 5, 2004
By Anthony Cardinale - NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Laura Jackson stands at the corner on Buffalo's East Side where her son, Torriano Jackson, was killed in 1991.
You almost need a score card to figure out who, on any given day, was telling the truth in the Torriano Jackson murder investigation.
Lamarr Scott confessed, then recanted, then confessed again.
Emil "Lucky" Adams testified Valentino Dixon was the killer but later told a private investigator he had lied to the jury.
Leonard Brown and Mario Jarmon told a grand jury that Scott -- not Dixon killed Jackson, but were later convicted of perjury.
Michael Bland, who first told police he didn't see who had the gun, nows says it was Scott.
And who was sitting in the red Tracker that was found abandoned in the parking lot of Louie's where the shootings occurred?
At the time, she was 20 years old. Today, she is a social worker and mother, taking classes toward a master's degree.
She doesn't want to be identified by name in The Buffalo News, fearful of retribution, given that so many of the people at the scene of the shooting that night had been tied to drugs and violent crimes.
On that August night in 1991, the woman recalled, she parked in her red Tracker outside Louie's and was eating a hot dog and talking with Adams through the driver's door window.
"We were just hanging out," she said. "That was the spot to be after you went to a club." The woman said she remembers a car pulling up on East Delavan headed toward Bailey, and several young men getting out. Fighting broke out, she said. With about 50 people assembled, the woman said she couldn't see the fight, but she did spot Scott, wearing a pair of sunglasses and carrying a gun.
"He just kind of ran down the street towards the crowd, and started shooting," she recalled. Torriano Jackson, she said, ran out of the crowd, coming toward her car, with Scott following him. She jumped out of her car to avoid the gunfire. "Torry was running, and he was behind him shooting," she said of Scott. "Torry fell, and then (Scott) was standing over him and finished shooting."
The woman said she knew Scott from grammar school. She also knew who Dixon was, although she didn't know him personally.
"Tino didn't shoot Torry," she said.
Early in the investigation, police and prosecutors contacted the woman, but she told them she didn't see anything.
She was scared, she said, worried that the shooting was drug-related, and that if she got involved, her home would be firebombed.
Later, she said, she learned that Brown and Jarmon told the grand jury that Scott was the killer.
"They got sentenced for perjury for telling the truth," the said. "That could have been me."
Even after Dixon was convicted, she said, she still didn't want to get involved. "The wrong guy went to jail, but sometimes stuff happens," she said.
But then, in 1998, six years after Dixon went to Attica, Roger Putnam, a Buffalo private investigator, was giving the woman a lift to Buffalo State College. She had just testified in a robbery case in downtown Buffalo and needed a ride to her class.
She remarked to the investigator that she had witnessed a murder a few years earlier, at the corner of Bailey and East Delavan avenues.
The private investigator had once worked for the Dixon family on their son's case. It slowly dawned on him that the woman was talking about the Torriano Jackson murder. And that this woman was the owner of the red Tracker. Before being dropped off, the woman agreed to give a sworn statement on what she witnessed.
"I just wanted to release it," the woman said. "I had held it for a long time. I know it wasn't right if he was in jail for something he didn't do.
Woman would testify If necessary, the woman said, she'll testify in court, hopeful that authorities will protect her, if necessary.
After his conversation with the woman, Putnam talked to Adams, one of the three key prosecution witness at Dixon's trial.
Adams now says he lied in court, and that the reason he testified to seeing Dixon firing the machine gun was that prosecutors pressured him, according to Putnam. "They knew I was facing time already," Adams said, referring to a charge pending against him in Michigan. "You know how they try to scare you." Putman adds that Adams promised to sign an affidavit to this effect, but later balked, saying that "he was afraid of retaliation from the district attorney's office and/or the Police Department."
Other developments have occurred since Dixon was convicted:
A jury in 1992 convicted Jarmon and Brown of perjury for saying Scott was the killer, and they went to prison. Jarmon has since died.
Scott went on a criminal rampage. On Nov. 10, 1993, he pulled a 9 mm gun on a group of teens at a corner deli at Northland and Schuele streets. After robbing them, he found Samuel R. Tyler III, 16, hiding in the alley, and shot him the face, shattering his spine.
Tyler became a quadriplegic, and died a year ago at the age of 25. Scott was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison, with no hope of parole until 2018.
Two years after Dixon went to Attica, Buffalo attorney Sean D. Hill in 1994 filed an appeal, challenging the validity of the identification process in Dixon's trial. The appeal was denied.
Dixon's parents -- Barbara Dixon and Robert Bryant -- set up a defense fund at Key Bank and hired two lawyers to seek a new trial for their son. Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico is expected to grant or deny a hearing sometime this month.
Lawyers Gregory McPhee of Syracuse and Hill of Buffalo think Dixon's best chance for a new trial lies in the witnesses who never were called.
In addition to Scott, Adams, Brown and the woman in the red Tracker, Dixon's attorneys say they now have other witnesses who will bolster Dixon's case.
They include Walter Lee Davis and Wendall Williams, who told private investigators they were at the scene and that Dixon was not the shooter; and Bland, who initially told police he didn't know who had the gun but now says Scott was the shooter.
The attorneys also have a statement that Pamela Yates gave a private investigator, saying that Scott hid in her home after the shooting and told her he was the killer. The defense attorneys also point to a statement that Antoine Shannon, Dixon's half brother, gave prosecutor Christopher J. Belling, claiming Torriano Jackson put a gun to his head at a party, setting off the events that led to the murder. Shannon said Jackson also was armed the night of the shooting.
"I saw that Torry had a gun," Shannon had told prosecutor Belling in a signed statement. "It was silver, a handgun, looked like a .38. . . Tino (Dixon) grabbed me and said, 'Come on!' Lamarr (Scott) was running toward the corner of Bailey and Delavan with the (machine) gun in his hands . . . Lamarr shot Torry in the leg. . . Torry fell on the ground and Lamarr ran up on him and stood over him, shooting him as he lay on the ground." Belling told The Buffalo News that after an interview, he concluded Shannon wasn't articulate enough to be a good witness.
Belling and Detective Mark Stambach say they are convinced Dixon is guilty. They believe the original testimony of three eye witnesses, including Torriano Jackson's brother, Aaron. They also question the credibility of the witnesses Putnam has gathered.
The Jacksons also are convinced of Dixon's guilt. Since Torriano's death, his mother, Laura Jackson, has become an anti-violence activist.
She told The News that Dixon and other drug dealers disliked her sons "because they are good boys, because they are hard workers, because they're going to school and holding legitimate jobs."
Pleas from prison
From his prison cell, though, Scott says he wishes people would believe his confession. "If they'd listened to me and put me in prison, I wouldn't have committed that second shooting, and (Samuel Tyler) would still be alive today," he said.
"I've been trying to right this wrong for the past 10 years," Scott added. "I've turned my life over to God, and I feel that this is the right thing to do. And it seems as if no one has ever listened.
And from his cell at Attica Correctional Facility, Dixon insists that all he wants is a fair trial.
"Eight witnesses gave sworn statements saying I wasn't the shooter," he told The News. "Nobody is going to lie for a poor black man in the ghetto. People in the ghetto don't care about anyone but themselves, and they certainly would not lie and give statements to help anyone in a murder case."
||Truth in Justice