A bizarre set of circumstances led to an investigation by activists
Richard Jones, after spending 17 years wrongly incarcerated, is finally a free man after a tragic case of mistaken identity cost him everything. Two years ago, Jones, who professed his innocence even after receiving mandatory-minimum sentencing, found hope for his case after he heard from other inmates that he had a “twin” in Lansing Correctional Facility.
Jones was convicted of aggravated robbery after a purse-snatching incident by a trio of men at a Kansas Walmart left a woman with minor injuries when her cell phone was snatched. The accused maintained that he was home with his family at the time of the incident, but witness accounts identified him as a participant, leading to a conviction in the wake of numerous appeals.
When Jones learned of his unrelated look-alike, he desperately reached out to both the Midwest Innocence Project and the Project for Innocence at the University of Kansas. The groups were able to follow up on the lead, eventually identifying the look-alike as Rick Amos. Authorities believe that both the remarkably similar appearances and the similar names, Rick and Richard, led to the grave confusion.
Kansas Department of Corrections
Speaking to the Kansas City Star (viaNBC News), Jones conveyed his struggle and his relief, saying, "When I saw that picture, it just made sense to me. They say you can’t see the picture clearly if you [are] in it, but if I was outside this picture, I would have seen the same thing."
Upon his release, Jones was reunited with his daughters, one of whom was an infant at the time of Jones arrest 19 years ago.
Midwest Innocence Project
As of now, the look-alike, Rick Amos, is currently incarcerated for other crimes and has not been charged with his participation in the robbery or assault. However, his resume is one of a career criminal, having been a charged and convicted of robbery, sexual assault, and possession of controlled substances. Jones had a criminal record at the time of his arrest, after charges relating to stolen steroids in 1994.
Jones feels vindicated, but also understands the confusion. "When I saw that picture, it just made sense to me. They say you can’t see the picture clearly if you [are] in it, but if I was outside this picture I would have seen the same thing,” he said.