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Georgetown students help free man after 27 years in NY prison for murder he didn't commit

Georgetown students help free a man after 27 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. (ABC7)

Valentino Dixon walked out of Erie County Hall in Buffalo, New York to cheers from a crowd of supporters.

The moment was nearly 27 years in the making, after he was wrongly convicted of murder in 1991.

"This is the greatest feeling in the world," said Dixon. "It's indescribable."

The development came, in large part, due to the work of three Georgetown University students.

They took a closer look at Dixon's case as part of a course for the "Prison Reform Project."

The course was taught by Marc Howard, director of the university’s Prisons and Justice Initiative, and Marty Tankleff.

Tankleff is Howard's childhood friend who was wrongfully imprisoned for nearly 18 years.

"The fight doesn't stop now," said Dixon. "I have a bigger fight... the mass incarceration needs to stop and we need to come up with a solution on how to render justice for those who are poor."

Georgetown undergrads Julie Fragonas, Isobella Goonetillake, and Naoya Johnson re-interviewed witnesses.

They also say they discovered prosecutors never revealed a negative gunpowder test on Dixon's hands during the original trial.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn is still pushing back on several points in the case.

He says Dixon brought the gun to the fight.

"Mr. Dixon is not an innocent man," said Flynn. "Don't be misguided in that at all. Mr. Dixon is innocent of the shooting and of the murder for which he was found guilty of."

Flynn claims Dixon was an up-and-coming drug dealer at the time of the 1991 shooting death of Toriano Jackson.

"If Mr. Dixon had told the truth about what happened 27 years ago, we wouldn't be here today probably," said Flynn.

He also claims Dixon's story changed, and says the actual shooter LaMarr Scott, was his bodyguard.

Flynn says a gunpowder test was never conducted and therefore couldn't have been left out of a trial.

However, Scott confessed repeatedly and Dixon passed a lie detector test. That proved to be enough to end what Dixon says was the biggest test of his life.

"You never know what the test is going to be or how long the test is going to be, you just have to hang in there," he said.

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