Although the criminal justice system attempts to serve justice to deserving lawbreakers, there are a lot of cases that end up wrongfully sentenced and innocent people go to jail. Remember Adnan Syed, the prisoner infamously featured on the NPR podcast Serial? He made waves in 2014 when journalist Sarah Koenig investigated his story and made a controversial case for how he may in fact be innocent. Many similar stories come to mind.
But an innocent man who went to jail and then met his potentially guilty doppelgänger? That sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller. Yet it's the true story of Richard Anthony Jones, a man from Kansas City, Missouri, who was convicted in 1999 of robbing a woman in a Walmart parking lot in Kansas and given a 19 year prison sentence — of which he served 17 of those years. In prison, while maintaining his innocence, he encountered another inmate who looked like him and even had the same first name. Jones's conviction was finally overturned after two years of fighting a legal battle and working with The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who have been wrongly convicted.
Jones's story captured the attention of many, and once he was released he quickly raised a large amount of money through a GoFundMe page. He's happy to be reunited with his family, but the question looms large of whether the justice system is really doing its best to actually promote justice.
Jones Was Convicted Solely Based On Eyewitness Testimonies
When Richard Anthony Jones was convicted of aggravated robbery, there was no physical evidence or DNA that linked him to the crime. Instead, he was placed at the scene by eyewitness testimonies who identified him in a lineup. Jones gave an alibi that he was with his girlfriend and family members when the crime took place, but the judge convicted him anyway. Throughout his 17 years in prison, he maintained his innocence, and eventually launched a case with The Innocence Project.
Jones Heard About His Doppelgänger From Other Inmates
If this was actually a movie, Jones would have caught a glimpse of his doppelganger while in line for the cafeteria. But how it actually played out was that he heard other inmates talking about a lookalike, and so he told two legal interns who were working on his case.
The lookalike's name was Ricky Amos, and he certainly did resemble Jones. They had the same look, corn rows, facial hair, eye color, skin color, weight, hand eight. They were just one year apart in age. Also, Amos happened to live close to the crime scene, and was sent to the same prison for a different crime.
When Amos's picture was shown to the legal team, no one could tell him apart from Jones.
The Original Lineup Of Photos Unfairly Targeted Jones
When witnesses were presented with a lineup of possible robbers during the original trial, Richard Anthony Jones was the only man who remotely fitted their description of a Hispanic or light-skinned African-American person. He became the prime suspect, no questions asked. In the subsequent investigation, Jones's lawyers argued that the lineup was "highly suggestive."
The Doppelgänger Denied Committing The Crime
At a new trial, Ricky Amos denied being involved in the 1999 robbery. But the eyewitnesses were brought back for questioning, and both the victim and Walmart security guard admitted they couldn't be sure that Richard Anthony Jones committed the robbery. The judge who originally prosecuted the case reexamined the evidence and the testimonies, and concluded that Jones's conviction couldn't be upheld if the eyewitness testimonies were no longer valid. They made a mistake in prosecuting Jones all those years ago.