A Kansas man who had the grave misfortune of looking almost exactly like a hardened criminal spent 17 years behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit. On Thursday, he was finally released from custody after a judge realized that there wasn’t enough evidence to keep him behind bars.
The sad tale of Richard Anthony Jones began in 1999, when a man who eerily shared his first name carried out an armed robbery at a Walmart. Although police did not have any physical evidence linking Jones to the crime, they dug up an eyewitness who – despite admitting to being on drugs the only time he encountered Jones – picked his photo out of a police database.
According to Jones’ defense team, his photo was the only one in the lineup that even vaguely matched the description of the culprit, not to mention the fact that most law enforcement officials believe that eyewitness identification is too unreliable to stand as the only shred of evidence.
Despite the shaky case, Jones was taken to court, where he truthfully presented an alibi claiming that he was with his girlfriend and other family members on the day of the robbery. However, a victim and another witness insisted that he was the robber and the jury took their side, resulting in a whopping 19-year sentence for nothing.
It wasn’t until last week that a team of lawyers who began digging into the case uncovered several unusual coincidences. They found another man who lived in the same area as Jones that shared his first name and an uncanny resemblance with him. When witnesses were presented with their photos, they could no longer say with certainty that Jones was the culprit.
While the judge did not claim that it was the other man who committed the crime, he ruled that no jury would reasonably convict Jones in light of the new findings and ordered his release. Although he was understandably angry for being held behind bars for nearly two decades for no reason, Jones reportedly understood how the mix-up happened when he saw his doppelganger’s photo.