- Exonerated: June 8, 2017
- County of Conviction: Johnson County, KS
- Convicted of: Aggravated robbery
- Sentence: 19 years in prison
- Years Served: 17+
A case of mistaken identity cost Richard Jones more than 18 years of his life.
It’s known as the “doppelganger case” in Kansas City: after a 1999 purse snatching in a Walmart parking lot, the getaway driver identified the assailant as a man named “Ricky.”
Despite the crime being perpetrated by another man named Ricky — Ricky Amos — Richard Jones was the one arrested and convicted for the crime. The two looked similarly, and had similar names. But most critically — Richard Jones was innocent of the crime.
Richard was convicted on aggravated robbery charges solely based on eyewitness identification (one of the top causes for wrongful conviction). In the lineup presented to eyewitnesses, Richard was the only light-skinned man present. Four of the other suspects in the lineup had blue eyes, despite none of the witnesses actually describing the assailant as having blue eyes.
Witnesses were left with virtually no choice other than to choose Richard.
And thus nearly 2 decades were stripped from an innocent man, while the true perpetrator of the crime walked free. It wasn’t until other inmates alongside Richard pointed out that there was a strong resemblance between him and Ricky Amos. Once attorneys identified Amos and showed both pictures of the two men, witnesses could no longer say that Jones was the robber.
It wasn’t until 2017, when Johnson County District Judge Kevin Moriarty, noted the flawed eyewitness identification practices used in Richard’s lineup, as well as the fact that Richard had a verified alibi at the time. Moriarty found that it was more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have found Jones guilty in light of the new evidence, and overturned the conviction.
Finally, after 18 years, Richard was able to walk free.
Richard will never get back the years that he lost. But he was one of the first to benefit from Kansas’s compensation law, passed in 2018, which aims to compensate those who have been wrongfully imprisoned. Kansas was ordered to pay more than $1 million to Richard, grant him a certificate of innocence, and provide access to healthcare and counseling.