Innocent dad wrongfully jailed 17 years for crime committed by lookalike seeks over $1 million in compensation
Richard Jones was arrested and convicted of aggravated robbery in 2000 for a crime he did not commit and spent the next 17 years behind bars.
An innocent man who spent 17 years in prison for a crime committed by his doppelganger is now seeking $1 million in compensation from the state. Richard Jones, now 42-years-old, was wrongly convicted of aggravated robbery in 1999 after a man who looked like him stole a phone from a woman outside a Walmart in Roeland Park, Kansas City. According to the New York Times, two other people who saw the attack described the culprit as a "light-skinned black man" or a "dark-skinned Hispanic" with his hair "pulled back" and tied in cornrows. The getaway car was then traced to a man who said that he and his friends had picked up a man who they barely knew as "Rick." The unfortunate coincidence that his lookalike also happened to share his name had all but sealed Jones' fate.
At the time of the robbery, Jones was at his home in Kansas City, cleaning up after a party with his girlfriend and her sisters and despite the lack of physical evidence tying him to the scene of the crime, he was apprehended by the authorities and charged with the crime.
Witnesses asked to identify whether Jones was indeed the person they saw commit the burglary, they replied in the affirmative. Not presented with any other option, they picked him out of police lineups as well. The 42-year-old was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 19 years in prison in 2000 because of his prior history of crime.
Despite repeatedly insisting on his innocence and appealing for release, Jones would continue to serve time at the Lansing Correctional Facility. When prisoners told him that he looked very similar to someone called Ricky Amos and confused him with the former, Jones realized he had a shot at freedom. He enlisted the help of the Project for Innocence and the organization soon discovered the real offender. The victim was shown photos of both men side by side and could no longer tell who had attempted to rob her all those years ago. A judge then threw out Jones' conviction last year, resulting in the 42-year-old finally walking out as a free man.
Jones was the father of two young girls at the time of his imprisonment, and his daughters, now 24 and 19, grew up without him. In a bid to get his life back on track, he filed a petition in the 10th Judicial District Court of Kansas looking for more than $1.1 million in compensation — close to $65,000 for each of the 17 years he would end up spending behind bars.
His lawyer, Richard Ainsworth, said his client was looking for a certificate of innocence and for compensation so he could "finally move forward with his life after spending over 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit." The petition similarly said, "After enduring 17 years of wrongful incarceration for a crime he did not commit, Mr. Jones brings this petition seeking a judicial pronouncement of his innocence and some measure of financial assistance as he seeks to rebuild his life," with another line reading, "This compensation is relatively small given the unfathomable hardship of 17 years of wrongful imprisonment."