After serving 17 years in prison due to a mistaken identity, an innocent man has been compensated by the state of Kansas for the mix-up. Thanks to a new law, he received a settlement of over $1 million.
Richard Jones was convicted of a theft that occurred in a Walmart parking lot in 1999. The crime took place in Roeland Park, Kansas and two eyewitnesses identified him as the perpetrator.
However, there was no physical evidence, no fingerprints and no DNA. Jones also had an alibi, as he was at his girlfriend's home in Kansas City at the time of the crime. None of that seemed to matter, as the eyewitnesses picked his mugshot out of a group and Jones suffered the consequences.
Jones never stopped maintaining his innocence. After attempting to appeal his conviction for 15 years, he was put in touch with the Midwest Innocence Project. Together, they tracked down another possible suspect named Ricky Amos who looked remarkably similar to Jones.
The doppelgänger helped prove Jones' innocence.
This similarity cast doubt on the eyewitness testimony, even to the eyewitnesses themselves, as they recanted their testimony. Thanks to that, and the lack of physical evidence, a judge ordered Jones' release last year.
Despite losing nearly two decades of his life, it looked like Jones would have to go through a long lawsuit to receive any kind of compensation. Kansas did not have a wrongful conviction compensation law.
This changed earlier this year when a new bill was signed into law. Under the new law, wrongfully convicted people qualify for $65,000 per year served in prison and $25,000 on parole or probation. With the 17 years unjustly served, Jones' settlement comes out to $1.1 million.
However, some feel it's still not enough.
After petitioning for the settlement, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Wednesday his agreement.
"We are committed to faithfully administering the new mistaken-conviction statute the legislature enacted. In this case, it was possible on the existing record to resolve all issues quickly, satisfy all of the statute's requirements, and agree to this outcome so Mr. Jones can receive the benefits to which he is entitled by law because he was mistakenly convicted."
Kansas' new law is one of the most comprehensive wrongful conviction laws in the country. Nebraska's similar law has a maximum cap of $500,000 on compensation and Missouri's law will pay only if the conviction is overturned by DNA evidence.
This brings up the topic of other cases of people being wrongfully convicted.
Jones will also be entitled to other benefits under the Kansas law, including counseling, state health benefits for two years, and having all records of the arrest and conviction expunged.