Searching for Justice: Man sentenced to 28 years in prison says he’s innocent

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 7:17 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - According to the National Registry of Exonerations, since 1989, 70 exonerations have been recorded in Virginia. That’s nearly 612 years lost.

Proving innocence is a process that isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires time, countless resources, and the willpower to not give up.

Kion Davis is searching for justice. He’s on a mission to exhaust all options to see his conviction overturned. Since 2001, he’s been serving time in prison for a bank robbery he says he did not commit.

“It’s hard being locked up for something you didn’t do,” Kion said.

According to investigative reports, on November 1, 2000, at 10:45 a.m., an attempted robbery took place at bank in South Boston. Later that day at 2:11 p.m., a robbery took place at American National Bank in Chatham.

Employees from both banks say two men walked into the bank. A demand note was placed on the counter with one of the men holding a brown plastic grocery bag. The men didn’t leave with any money from the South Boston bank. However, more than $2,800 was stolen from American National Bank.

“One of the FBI agents had told me that the same guys that had did the South Boston one, did the one in Chatham,” Kion explained.

Reports show employees from both banks never identified Kion as a suspect during the investigation. However, two women, who were not witnesses to either crime, identified Kion from surveillance photos and videos released during the investigation.

According to the investigative report, one woman contacted the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office and told them about a conversation she overheard. The report says she shared specific information that only law enforcement would know about the crimes. She looked at security tapes from both banks and named Kion as a suspect.

The report also says an investigator had an informant, who said she knew Kion. She viewed a photo lineup and still photos from the bank security tape, and identified Kion as a suspect, as well.

“Circumstantial evidence is fine, and yes, you can get a conviction off circumstantial evidence. But what you want is real evidence. You want to be able to positively put that person at the scene and be able to say that was the person who did it,” said Tod Burke, a criminologist and former police officer.

Reports from evidence collected for forensic analysis did not positively identify Kion.

“They said they had fingerprints, none of it matched mine, they had a boot print, it didn’t match mine, they had the handwriting note, didn’t match mine. There was no evidence to put me there,” Kion said.

“One of the key things in any investigation is establishing a timeline. And with a timeline comes an alibi,” Burke explained.

Kion said he had an alibi for the attempted robbery in South Boston. He said he was at the Parks of Chatham housing complex. Reports show investigators talked with several people and their interviews supported Kion’s story. It was the window of time between 2:00 and 2:30 p.m., when the robbery at American National Bank took place, that investigators weren’t able to confirm Kion’s alibi.

According to investigators, the Chatham bank robbery happened at 2:11 p.m. An investigator said he drove from the Parks of Chatham to the bank, and it took him five minutes. The Commonwealth’s attorney questioned Mary Allen, who testified she saw Kion at 2:20 p.m. to play cards.

Bank surveillance video shows the robbery lasted about 60 seconds.

The last time-stamped surveillance photo presented in court is marked 2:12 p.m.

If, according to Allen’s testimony, and Kion was ready to play cards with her at 2:20 p.m., that would put Kion back at the apartment complex between 2:17 p.m. and 2:18 p.m. -- only leaving two to three minutes to spare for him to be in Allen’s apartment and ready to play cards.

In court, the Commonwealth’s attorney argued Kion robbed the bank, then went to Allen’s apartment to play cards to create an alibi for himself.

The trial lasted two days. The jury found Kion guilty of entering a bank while armed, robbery, and use of a firearm in commission of a felony. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Here is Part 2 of Searching for Justice.