A Kansas City, Missouri, man who served 17 years in prison for robbery has been freed after a man who resembles him emerged as a suspect.
Richard Jones, 41, was released Thursday, June 15. He was arrested in 1999 after witnesses said a thin, light-skinned black or Hispanic man robbed a woman in a Walmart parking lot in Kansas City, Kansas.
To make matters worse for Jones, police had the name of the man they say committed the crime. His name was Rick.
According to reports, the robbery happened on May 31, 1999, when three people drove from Kansas into Missouri to buy crack and were joined by a fourth man. Police now say that man was Ricky Amos, a Hispanic man who closely resembles Jones.
Police say to score money for drugs, the suspect grabbed the woman's purse, but she fought, and the robber was only able to get away with her phone.
Four months later, Jones, a tall, light-skinned black man with dark hair, was picked out of a photo lineup and arrested for aggravated robbery. Jones maintained that he never left his house the day of the crime, but he was convicted and sentence to 19 years in prison.
Jones had exhausted his appeals and was clinging to little hope. That changed when Amos ended up at the same prison on an unrelated charge 15 years after the robbery. As soon as Amos arrived, people were confusing the two. Both men had eerily similar beards, skin tone, and braided hair.Led by attorney Alice Craig, the University of Kansas School of Law Innocence Project took Jones' case in 2015. Knowing standard appeals were not an option, Craig quickly began mounting a third-party suspect argument that began with establishing that Amos lived near the scene of the robbery, where the three people from Missouri were attempting to buy drugs. It was also learned that Ricky Amos went by the name Rick. It was also established that the suspect had a tattoo on his arm. Jones has no tattoo.
However, the men looked so closely alike that even witnesses who were shown mugshots of Amos and Jones all said they couldn't tell them apart. Even one of the men attempting to score drugs the day of the robbery said he made a mistake when identifying Jones as the suspect.The former assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case said he stands behind Jones' efforts for post-conviction relief.
"The information provided to me by Ms. Craig has undermined whatever confidence I had at the time that the trial of Richard Jones resulted in a just result," former prosecutor James Cowles said in a statement. "It is not my place to reach a conclusion that the new information proves Mr. Jones's innocence, but I do believe that it would be appropriate for Ms. Craig to pursue whatever relief might still be available to Mr. Jones."
Amos has denied involvement in the robbery.
[Featured Image by John Moore/Getty Images]