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Marvell Dixon

Other Ohio Exonerations
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On July 19, 1995, Ervin Nixon was driving his friend, Douglas Harvey, in Columbus, Ohio. Two other friends, Joe Robinson and Chris Veney, were in another car in front of them. At the stoplight at Ohio and Livingston avenues, a blue Chevrolet pulled up next to Nixon’s car, and the passenger in the front seat began firing, hitting Nixon and Harvey. Nixon, who was 19 years old, climbed out of the car and ran. Harvey was shot twice in the head and died the next day at an area hospital. He was 17 years old.

Nixon, Veney, and Robinson did not provide any information to police about the identification of the shooters.

More than a year later, Nixon told police that the shooter was Marvell Dixon, who was 18 years old at the time of Harvey’s death. Separately, Robinson also named Dixon as the shooter in an interview with police in January 1997. Dixon was arrested on February 14, 1997, and charged with aggravated murder and felonious assault.

Dixon’s first trial in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas ended in a mistrial. The second ended with a hung jury, with 10 jurors voting to convict. The third trial began in April 1998. Robinson testified for the prosecution and identified Dixon as the shooter. Robinson said the shooting occurred while he – a member of the Crips gang – and his friends were driving through an area of Columbus considered to be territory controlled by the Bloods, a rival gang.

In addition, the state presented a video deposition of Frank Gable, who said he saw Dixon and another man leave Gable’s house in a blue Oldsmobile on the day of the crime. Gable said he saw the Oldsmobile about 10-15 minutes later, and it was following another car. Gable testified that he heard the shots but was unable to identify the shooter.

Nixon testified against Dixon at the first two trials, but he wrote a letter between the second and third trials that claimed “Jamaicans” were responsible for the shooting.

At the third trial, Dixon’s attorney called Nixon as a witness, but the strategy backfired. Nixon testified that he lied in the letter and that Dixon had shot and killed Harvey. Nixon also testified that he was acquainted with Dixon and knew he was a Bloods member.

Dixon testified and denied shooting Nixon or Harvey. He said he wasn’t in a gang or involved in gang-related activities. The jury convicted Dixon on April 16, 1998, of aggravated murder and felonious assault. He received a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

This was the second homicide charge against Dixon. He had been arrested at the end of August 1996 and charged with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Maurice Arnold on August 21, 1996. He pled guilty to that charge on September 3, 1999, and received a sentence of seven years in prison.

Dixon appealed his conviction in the Harvey case. He argued, among other things, that the trial judge erred in admitting evidence of Dixon’s gang affiliation.

Ohio’s 10th District Court of Appeals dismissed Dixon’s appeal on December 5, 2000, writing, “Although defendant reasonably argues that the evidence of gang affiliation and activity was unfavorable to his defense, in our view, the evidence does not unfairly prejudice the defendant, nor does the danger of unfair prejudice substantially outweigh the probative value of the evidence.”

In April 2016, Nixon recanted his testimony. He first told Nate Dent, Dixon’s uncle, who connected Nixon and Dixon by telephone. Dixon then filed a pro se motion for a new trial on August 10, 2016. Judge Judy French held an evidentiary on December 11, 2017.

At the hearing, Nixon testified that he had falsely accused Dixon. He said he could not identify the person who shot him and Harvey. The people in the shooter’s car wore sunglasses and rags on their faces. Nixon said he had a run-in with Dixon when they were both in the Franklin County Jail on different charges. Nixon said Dixon insulted Nixon’s mother. “It was like a bomb going off,” Nixon said, and it led him to falsely accuse Dixon as the shooter. Nixon said at the hearing that he didn’t have any direct contact with Robinson, who was at a state prison, but that information traveled quickly through the prison system.

Judge French denied Dixon’s motion on January 25, 2018. While she found Nixon’s recantation to be credible, she said that it did not create a strong possibility that the trial would have resulted in a different verdict. Robinson’s testimony still identified Dixon as the shooter, and there was no indication they had coordinated their statements to police prior to Dixon’s arrest. Ohio’s 10th District Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling on December 6, 2018.

On June 10, 2019, Nixon pled guilty to perjury and received a sentence of nine months in prison.

At his sentencing, Nixon said, “I’ll accept full responsibility for this perjury. I’m a man. I’ll take that. I did that. I made a mistake as a kid, pointing him out, saying that he did something that he didn’t do. I thought I was doing the right thing for a cause that wasn’t true. But as a man … it was eating my consciousness up. I was having mental health problems with that. So I was free when I did it. It was lifted. I apologized to him. He accepted my apology, and that’s bigger than anything, any prison sentence that could be imposed on me.”

On January 26, 2021, Robinson recanted his testimony and said that Dixon was not the person he saw shoot Nixon and Harvey. He said in an affidavit that he and Nixon were together in the Franklin County Jail at some point in 1996, which was when Nixon told Robinson that he was going to blame Dixon for the shooting. When the police came to interview him in January 1997, Robinson said, “I followed what Ervin Nixon and I had discussed.” He said the gang rivalry was a factor in his decision to falsely accuse Dixon.

Dixon’s attorney, Kort Gatterdam, filed a motion for a new trial on May 17, 2021. The motion included corrections records supporting Robinson’s claim that he and Nixon had been in jail together at the time Nixon devised the plan to blame Dixon. “Now that Robinson has also recanted, the state no longer has eyewitness testimony identifying Mr. Dixon as the shooter in this case,” the motion said. “In short, the state has no case against Dixon.”

On March 23, 2022, Judge Karen Phipps of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas vacated Dixon’s convictions and granted him a new trial. He was released from prison on March 24, 2022. Judge Andrew Miller granted the prosecutor’s motion to dismiss on March 29, 2022.

“When I called him a couple of days ago and said, ‘You’re going home,’ there was just silence,” Gatterdam told the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s been on pins and needles for so long.”

Robinson was charged on March 23, 2022 with one count of perjury and pled guilty that same day. He was sentenced to time served.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 4/12/2022
Last Updated: 4/12/2022
State:Ohio
County:Franklin
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:1995
Convicted:1998
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:20 years to Life
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No