Black Panther “Jomo” Davis on Trial for Murder

Davis v. Com., 353 S.E.2d 905 (Va. Ct. App. 1987)

Cleveland “Jomo” Davis went to jail for robbing a Virginia Beach grocery store in 1968. He escaped before sentencing and moved to New York, where he joined the Black Panther Party. He was sent to Auburn Prison for robbery charges, which he disputed. Then he was transferred to Attica.                 

Davis was involved in the Attica Prison Riot, which resulted in the deaths of 33 prisoners and ten hostages after state police stormed the facility. Davis, shot seven times, was left bleeding in his cell for a day before national guardsmen took him in for medical treatment. Davis received a full pardon in 1976 after prosecutors decided his case held no possibility of conviction.

In 1978, he and a fellow former Attica inmate were arrested in New York for killing two police officers. Davis secured famed Black Panther attorney Robert Bloom as defense counsel. Three trials later (the first two deadlocked), Davis was acquitted. It was June 28, 1980.

In 1984, Davis was stabbed when breaking into a Virginia Beach home, and one of Davis’s accomplices killed the home’s owner. Davis went on the run and made the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. He was captured in 1985, extradited to Virginia, and sentenced to 107 years for felony murder. He made parole in 2009 and moved back to North Carolina, his native state.