Richard Jones was at a party with his friends and family on the same night that Ricky Amos, high on crack cocaine, tried to snatch a woman's purse several miles away. The year was 1999, and several witnesses got a pretty good look at Amos, describing him as a "thin, light-skinned black or Hispanic man with dark hair." A year later, Jones was arrested of aggravated robbery and, despite his alibi, sentenced to 19 years of prison on the testimony of several witnesses who were deemed more trustworthy than Jones' family.
Why were the witnesses so insistent Jones had committed the crime? Because he looked exactly like the perpetrator.
While Jones was in prison, another man was arrested and brought in: Amos. Jones began to realize something funny was going on when an inmate said to him:
Hey, you were in the cafeteria and you didn't say hello to me.
"@iamfatdon: Man, Richard Jones, Spends 17 Years In Jail Over Resemblance With Real Criminal In US. @Gidi_Traffic https://t.co/VeMxU1wOC0— GIDITRAFFIC (@GIDITRAFFIC)1535911059.0
"It was crazy. The same facial structure, hairlines, hair, everything." Richard Jones tells the story of his wrong… https://t.co/tjDNLgAFgn— WBEZ (@WBEZ)1535993712.0
Alice Craig, Jones's attorney who also works for the Innocence Project, "an organisation dedicated to getting innocence people out of jail," was flabbergasted when she saw a side-by-side photo of the two men:
We were just like, holy c***.
@The_MIP One can see how the jury came to the conclusion it did, despite the alibi witnesses. It’s also hard not t… https://t.co/Qac8CvlWsi— John Druva (@John Druva)1535646670.0
Jones's case was immediately re-opened. The original witnesses of the crime were shown pictures of the two men and were unable to identify which one had committed the crime. A judge lifted Jones's conviction, freeing him in 2017, 17 years after he was wrongfully arrested.
Craig commented to the Post:
He [Jones] spent a long time in prison being pretty bitter about being convicted of a crime that he didn't commit, and he couldn't figure out why these people picked him out of a lineup.
@nzherald 1.1 seems fairly cheap for 17 yrs??? $64k a year??— cnsmechanic (@cnsmechanic)1535691147.0
In return for the innumerable life events Jones was deprived of, including the youths of his two children and the births of his grandchildren, he is suing the Kansas City police department for "$65k for every year he was incarcerated wrongfully."
@nzherald And he should get it. Maybe that way we'll make better judicial decisions?— Julian Terris ƸӜƷ ™ 🎼♌🇳🇿☮️❤️ (@Julian Terris ƸӜƷ ™ 🎼♌🇳🇿☮️❤️)1535694980.0
@NYTNational @nytimes Only $65,000 a year for stealing a man’s life. Should be more plus funds for adult daughters… https://t.co/tT5pyrOkuQ— RachelGoodstein (@RachelGoodstein)1535700494.0
Though he couldn't be prosecuted anyway due to the statute of limitations, Amos denies any involvement in the crime.