A Kansas man has been awarded $1.1 million after spending 17 years in prison for a crime he said was committed by his doppelganger, authorities said.
Richard Jones and the state reached the settlement in a lawsuit that was resolved Tuesday under a new mistaken-conviction law, officials said.
“We are committed to faithfully administering the new mistaken-conviction statute the legislature enacted," Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a statement. "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."
Jones spent 6,035 days in prison for the 1999 aggravated robbery of a woman in a Walmart parking lot.
The woman was outside a Walmart in Roeland Park when a man tried to steal her purse. The woman clung to her bag, but the man got away with her cellphone.
The woman fell and scraped her knees during the incident, which upgraded the incident to an aggravated robbery. Witnesses told police the suspect was a “light-skinned Hispanic or African-American man” named Rick who had “long hair pulled back,” CNN reported.
Looking through booking photos of people with the name Richard or Rick, a witness and the victim identified Jones as the suspect.
Jones had a solid alibi, having been at his girlfriend’s birthday celebration, where he was seen by several other partygoers, and he had spent the next day watching movies with her. But the jury didn’t believe his alibi and Jones, who had a criminal record, was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to 19 years in prison.
Jones maintained his innocence and contacted the Midwest Innocence Project, which partners with the University of Kansas' Project for Innocence. The Innocence Project then tracked down who they believed was truly behind the crime.
Ricky Lee Amos, who reportedly strongly resembles Jones, lived at the address connected to the license plate number the witness jotted down. After being presented by the new information, the eyewitnesses said they could no longer be certain that Jones was behind the robbery. Amos went on to testify he did not commit the robbery. Since the statute of limitations on the crime had passed, neither Amos, nor anyone else, can be prosecuted.
A judge vacated Jones’ conviction and the charges against him were dismissed in 2017. He filed a petition in August asking the state to pay him $1.1 million and to officially proclaim him innocent.
Jones was awarded $1,103,945.16, was granted a certificate of innocence, saw his records of arrest and conviction expunged and any biological samples associated with his conviction were destroyed, officials said. He has also been granted counseling and permission to participate in the state health care benefits program for both 2019 and 2020.
This lawsuit is the first to be filed under the mistaken-conviction statute enacted by lawmakers earlier this year, Schmidt said.