Man Freed After 17 Years In Jail For Crime His Lookalike May Have Committed

At a hearing last week, the original robbery suspect could not tell the two men apart. 

By Benjamin H. Smith

Richard Anthony Jones, whose picture can be seen above on the left, had professed his innocence for nearly two decades behind bars. His protestations fell on deaf ears. The Kansas City, Missouri resident was serving time for an aggravated robbery on the other side of town, across the state line in Kansas. Now, 17 years later, he’s a free man once more after lawyers tracked down a lookalike with the same name, whom they believe was the real culprit.

The Kansas City Star reports Jones was convicted in 1999 despite having an alibi and there being no physical evidence linking him to the crime.  The only proof prosecutors had was two eyewitnesses who placed him at the scene of the crime after the fact. However, the lineup photos police showed them were - in the words of Jones’ lawyers - “highly suggestive.” Of the six mug shots shown, Jones was the only person whose appearance resembled the description of the robbery suspect. Additionally, one of the witnesses admitted being high on drugs at the time of the encounter.

Jones was sentenced to 19 years in prison and appealed his conviction several times, to no avail. While behind bars, however, he began to hear about a fellow inmate who looked like his twin brother. They even shared the same first name. After contacting the Midwest Innocence Project and the Paul E. Wilson Defender Project at the University of Kansas, lawyers began looking into the possibility that the other inmate, who answered to “Ricky,” was behind the original crimes. “We were floored by how much they looked alike,” Jones’ attorney Alice Craig said after locating the other man and looking at his picture alongside Jones’. Not only that, the other man lived in the same part of Kansas City, Kansas where the robbery occurred.

At a hearing last Wednesday, witnesses, including the original robbery victim, admitted they could not tell the two men apart. While the new suspect denied his role in the crime, Johnson County District Judge Kevin Moriarty ordered Jones’ release, saying that based on the new evidence, no reasonable juror would have convicted Jones. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, the newly freed Jones said “I don't believe in luck, I believe I was blessed.”


[Photo: Kansas City Police Department]

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