A Kansas City man was released from prison last week after serving 17 years for a crime he didn’t commit. In 1999, Richard Anthony Jones was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to more than 19 years behind bars. Jones futilely attempted to appeal the case for years, standing by his verified alibi that he was with his girlfriend and other family members in Kansas City, Missouri—not across state lines in Roeland Park, Kansas where the incident occurred—on the day of the robbery, but it wasn’t until a new person of interest of uncovered that his case gained any traction.
According to The Kansas City Star, Jones repeatedly heard from fellow inmates that there was another prisoner who shared the same first named and bore a striking resemblance to him. While Jones never saw the man, known as Ricky, for himself, he passed along the information to the Midwest Innocence Project (MIP) a couple of years ago, and they began digging into the case. The attorneys soon realized what Jones had maintained all along—he was an innocent man.
There was never any DNA, fingerprint, or physical evidence linking Jones to the crime. His conviction was based solely on notoriously unreliable eyewitness identification. According to MIP, Jones was the only person that resembled the description of the “light-skinned,” “blue eyed” robbery suspect in the police lineups presented to witnesses at the time of the robbery. But when attorneys from MIP presented images of Jones and the new person of interest (seen below) to the robbery victim, two witnesses, and prosecutor in Jones’ case, all four individuals said they could not tell the two men apart.
Richard Anthony Jones is pictured on the right. A new suspect known as “Ricky” is on the left.
“We were floored by how much they looked alike,” Jones’ attorney Alice Craig said about seeing his picture alongside the picture of the other man.
The Kansas City Star reports that the subsequent investigation uncovered that the other man lived near the area of where the crime occurred, while Jones lived across the state line in Kansas City. During a hearing at Johnson County District Court last Wednesday, witnesses confirmed they could no longer say if Jones was the perpetrator. Based on the testimony and new evidence, Judge Kevin Moriarty ordered his release, saying that no reasonable juror would have convicted Jones.
MIP, in partnership with University of Kansas School of Law, is excited to announce that Richard Jones was exonerated…
Jones is now a free man and has been reunited with his family. He admitted to spending much of his sentence bitter and angry because he missed spending time with his children who were not old enough to understand what was going on.
“When it comes to my kids, it’s been a rough ride because… for a while they didn’t understand. They just knew I wasn’t there,” he told the Kansas City Star. “It effects you, when your father is not around. But I was blessed to have family that embraced my children.”
But in an incredible display of grace, he said that seeing the side-by-side photos of him and Ricky actually brought him peace because he likely would have made the same call the witnesses made some two decades ago. He likened the discovery of the other man to finding a “needle in the haystack.”
“When I saw that picture, it made sense to me,” Jones said. “I would have saw the same thing. There are not too many people you could present those picture to and they not say, ‘hold up.’ Either you’re going to think they’re the same person or you’re going to be like, ‘man, these guys look so much alike.’
Watch his interview with The Kansas City Star here.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Jones as he readjusts to normal life. Ultimately, he refuses to believe he is “lucky” to have been able to finally put together a successful appeal all these years later, instead calling himself a “blessed” man.
“I don’t consider it luck. I was blessed,” he said emphatically. “I don’t believe in luck… If something positive happens for you, that’s a blessing. In my mind, everything just comes together on its own when it’s meant to come together.”
(h/t Daily Mail)