|The Buffalo News
CLARK TO STUDY DIXON FILE FOR 'MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE'
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2004
By Anthony Cardinale - NEWS STAFF REPORTER
District Attorney Frank J. Clark says he will review the file of the Torriano Jackson murder case to see if there was any "miscarriage of justice" that sent Valentino Dixon to prison in 1992.
Clark told The Buffalo News on Monday that if he finds that the prosecutor, Christopher J. Belling, withheld anything important from Dixon's lawyer, he will inform the court.
Dixon, serving 39 years to life at Attica Correctional Facility, is appealing a decision signed Aug. 30 by his trial judge, Senior Erie County Judge Michael L. D'Amico, denying a hearing for a new trial.
Dixon's attorney, Gregory McPhee, has told The News that Belling limited the information given to the jury in order to win a conviction.
"The facts were essentially streamlined so the prosecution could present a simple theory to the jury that heard the Dixon case," McPhee said.
"But they sort of railroaded Valentino into a conviction," he went on. "They didn't want anything extraneous to come in that would obfuscate that at all. It seems to me to cloud what actually happened. They're still under an obligation to present the truth and disclose the physical evidence."
So far, Clark said, he hasn't found any evidence that was withheld from the defense. If that's the case, Clark added, Dixon's only chance for a new trial would be to argue before the Appellate Division that his original trial lawyer should have called to the stand Lamarr Scott, who confessed to the shooting.
The Dixon family claims that the original lawyer, Joseph J. Terranova, failed to call not only Scott but half a dozen other witnesses who were waiting outside the courtroom. All of them have said Dixon wasn't the shooter, according to the family's private investigator, and some of them say they saw Scott shoot Jackson.
Jackson, 17, was shot to death with a Tech 9 semiautomatic weapon, and three other youths were wounded at Bailey and East Delavan avenues at 1:30 a.m. Aug. 10, 1991. Scott confessed to the crime two days later and was interviewed by police but then released.
Two other youths who were present told the grand jury Scott was the shooter.
After they were indicted for perjury, Scott recanted his confession and wasn't charged with perjury. Scott insists today that he was the killer but recanted back then under pressure from Belling.
Belling has denied pressuring Scott or withholding any evidence from the defense in 1992. Terranova told The News that all three men would have been solid defense witnesses, but prosecutors effectively neutralized them, long before the trial began, by indicting two of them for perjury and pressuring Scott to recant his confession.
"It began to deconstruct as the trial was starting," Terranova said. "There was no silver bullet for us. Not even Lamarr Scott."
One of the men indicted for perjury -- Mario Jarmon -- claimed that Jackson had a gun and fired the first shot at him before somebody opened fire with the Tech 9. In fact, many witnesses have said they heard a single shot before hearing the semiautomatic fire of the Tech 9.
A .32-caliber revolver was found at the scene, but prosecutor Belling told the jury it played no role in the shootings. A jury later found Jarmon innocent of perjury for saying that Jackson had a gun and shot Jarmon but convicted him of perjury for saying the Lamarr Scott killed Jackson.
Clark was asked whether Belling's one-shooter theory would have collapsed if the jury in Dixon's trial had been told that Jackson had a gun and fired the first shot.
"Would that have changed something, had the jury known that?" Clark responded. "Possibly. I mean, that's all speculation."
The issue, Clark said, is "if there appears to me to be such a miscarriage of justice that occurred -- or if there was information in (our) file which we never brought forward to the defense, as is our constitutional obligation then it would be appropriate for me to do something."Clark said he will complete his review within a month.
||Truth in Justice