The Incredible Story of How a Golf Magazine Helped Free an Inmate

Golf brought Dixon Valentino peace—though he never played a day in his life.

Valentino Dixon poses with his golf art. David Duprey/AP

Inside his 6-by-10 cell, Valentino Dixon drew stunning landscapes of a sport he’d never played.

The art, depicting colorful, detailed “golf-scapes,” gave him peace as he served time for a murder he didn’t commit, the inmate wrote in a letter to Golf Digest. The letter prompted the publication to look into Dixon’s case—and notice that something seemed off about his conviction.

Golf Digest’s 2012 story about Dixon’s case gained national attention and led to an investigation by the Georgetown University Prison Reform Project. The effort provided new evidence—including a confession by another inmate to the 1991 crime—that was presented to the new district attorney in Buffalo, New York.

After 27 years of imprisonment, Dixon finally had his conviction thrown out last week, and he walked out free, surrounded by family, friends, and the Golf Digest journalist who took up his cause: Max Adler. After Dixon’s release, Adler, now Golf Digest’s editorial director, told me they celebrated Dixon’s first meal at a Red Lobster.

According to Adler, Dixon is going to work to help exonerate other inmates who have been wrongfully convicted. And that’s not the only thing he has to look forward to: The two have plans to get on a golf course and hit a few balls around.

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  • Poach no more. DNA testing has entered the world of wildlife poaching. A wildlife investigator has used new evidence to deal a blow to the crime networks behind elephant poaching.

    DNA forensic information can track where the elephants are from and, as a result, be used to determine the smuggling cartel involved. The biologists behind this effort note that authorities have to do the final job of convicting, imprisoning, and breaking up the cartels. That enforcement work is particularly important as poachers target younger and younger elephants. (Wired)

  • Pursuing a dream—with just one hand. Shaquem Griffin didn’t let his misfortune stop him. With only one hand, Griffin became a star college football linebacker, making interceptions and recovering fumbles.

    Now he’s playing with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL, on the same team with his twin brother, Shaquill, a cornerback. And he’s also one of six new “changemakers” starring in Nike’s latest “Just Do It” campaign.

    “It’s not some sob story or anything like that. It’s not even a sad story—at least not to me. It’s just…my story,” Griffin wrote in an essay in the Player’s Tribune, referring to his own backstory. “I feel like all the boys and girls out there with birth defects—we have our own little nation, and we’ve got to support each other.” (New York Times)

  • Beyond books: looks. New York Public Library cardholders can now borrow handbags, briefcases, and even ties, giving people of limited means access to clothes and accessories for events like job interviews or graduations.

    The pilot program is taking place at Manhattan’s Riverside branch. It began after one librarian, Michelle Lee, taught a free class for high school students and realized that many of them didn’t have access to professional clothes.

    “You look good, you feel good,” says Kimberly Spring, the network manager for some of the public library’s branches.The “Grow Up Work Fashion Library” is open to all card-holders who have less than $15 in fines. (NPR)

  • Oh say, did you see? At 7, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja did not have an easy road to singing the national anthem before the Los Angeles Galaxy match against the Seattle Sounders. She had to defeat the other entrants in the soccer team’s #GalaxySocial Day Instagram Anthem contest.

    And then she sang as if she belonged before a stadium, in a performance that the team—and the audience—gushed over. Among her supporters: Galaxy (and international) soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimović. “MVP of the game!” he tweeted.

    A game in which, it should be noted, the Galaxy won 3-0. (Time)

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