Richard Jones

Jones was convicted of aggravated assault stemming from a May 31, 1999 purse snatching in a Walmart parking lot. The victim fought back during the altercation, and the perpetrator, who had no weapon, left with only the victim’s cellphone. The driver of the getaway vehicle later identified the assailant as a man named “Ricky” who he had picked up at an apartment in Kansas City, KS. Despite showing police officers the apartment, investigators did not speak to anyone at the residence.

On Wednesday, June 7, 2017, attorneys for Jones presented evidence before the Hon. Kevin P. Moriarty that it was another “Ricky”—Ricky Amos—that committed the crime, and not Richard Jones. Witnesses from the original trial testified at Wednesday’s hearing that they were unable to tell Amos and Jones apart when presented with current photos. When provided mugshots from the time of the crime, witnesses identified Amos as more similar to the true perpetrator. In addition, evidence was presented linking Amos to the apartment where the perpetrator was picked up by the getaway driver. A resident of the apartment testified that Amos and his mother had lived at the apartment during that time.

 

Flawed Lineup Practices

“Richard Jones case highlights the importance eyewitness identification practices,” said Alice Craig, attorney for Jones and professor at the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence at the University of Kansas School of Law. “Witnesses were presented with no other option but to choose Jones in the lineups as created. None of the other fillers matched the description provided by the witnesses, only Richard.” In 2016, the Kansas legislature passed a law requiring law enforcement to adopt a written policy regarding eyewitness identification procedures to reduce wrongful convictions.

Jones, who was sentenced to thirty (30) years in prison for the assault, was convicted based solely eyewitness identification, despite presenting a verified alibi. Former Johnson County Assistant District Attorney John Cowles, who prosecuted the case, testified at the hearing that it was rare for him to prosecute cases based solely on eyewitness identifications because of known “pitfalls” with such evidence. After reviewing the evidence presented to him by Jones’ attorneys, Cowles further testified that his confidence in Jones’ conviction was undermined.

In a ruling given from the bench on Wednesday, Judge Moriarty also took issue with the identification, noting that Jones was the only light-skinned individual in the line-up and that four of the six suspects had blue eyes, even though none of the witnesses had described the assailant as having blue eyes. Based upon these flawed practices and the new evidence that it was Amos and not Jones who committed the crime, Judge Moriarty found that it was more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have found Jones guilty in light of the new evidence.

“Richard Jones has declared his innocence for more than 16 years, with the support of a number of lawyers and law students, including the Midwest Innocence Project,” said Craig. “We are thankful that today a court finally joined him in that declaration.” Although Jones had previously exhausted his appeals, the Court found that Jones was entitled to relief to prevent a manifest injustice.

Jones case was taken on as part of a joint venture between the Midwest Innocence Project and the KU Project for Innocence. “Richard’s case is a testament to the long, difficult and expensive process it takes to overturn a wrongful conviction,” said Tricia Bushnell, Executive Director of the MIP. “Mr. Jones served over 18 years for a purse-snatching he did not commit. Without our partners at the KU Project for Innocence and the support of our donors, he would still be waiting today. ”

In addition to its partnership with the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence at the University of Kansas School of Law, the MIP also partners with the University of Missouri (Kansas City) and (Columbia) Schools of Law. These law schools provide invaluable student resources to assist with the research involved in complex cases. Students involved in this case included: Chapman Williams, Chad Neswick, Nikki Multer, Brenna Lynch, Kaylie Schmutz, Mark Magner, and Gregory Dowty. Additionally, KU Project for Innocence lawyers Jean Phillips and Elizabeth Cateforis and investigator Michael Bussell also worked on the case.