Valentino Dixon is a free man. The 48-year-old — who was serving a 39-years-to-life sentence for the 1991 killing of Torriano Jackson — can thank golf paintings for his Sept. 20 release. 

Although he’s never stepped foot on a course before, Dixon became intrigued by the sport when the warden brought in a photograph of Augusta National’s 12th hole. He would grind colored pencils to their nubs and draw for ten hours a day. In 2012, Golf Digest‘s wrote about the inmate’s golf-scapes, which garnered recognition from around the country.

“The guys can’t understand,” Dixon said at the time. “They always say I don’t need to be drawing this golf stuff. I know it makes no sense, but for some reason, my spirit is attuned to this game.”

It wasn’t for about 100 paintings, though, that Adler started to realize his conviction seemed unjust. According to the publication, his case is “complicated” but “on surface it, involves shoddy police work, zero physical evidence linking Dixon, conflicting testimony of unreliable witnesses, the videotaped confession to the crime by another man, a public defender who didn’t call a witness at trial, and perjury charges against those who said Dixon didn’t do it.” In other words, he was a seemingly innocent man behind bars.

Word of his case spread to a group of Georgetown University students, who created documentaries, websites, and social media campaigns around three other individuals thought to be wrongfully imprisoned as part of a class. “They did a great job of speaking to witnesses who could still be located, as well as getting Chris Belling [who prosecuted Dixon] to say things at variance with positions he’s argued in the past.” With their help, his conviction was eventually overturned. 

So what’s next for Dixon? “I’m going to Red Lobster to celebrate with my family and my support team, then we’re going to go a park,” he said. He added that his mom bought him a big easel so he can continue his work. “I can’t wait to use it!” 

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