KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- A case of mistaken identity forced a man to spend 17 years behind bars. He was serving time for an armed robbery he said he didn't commit.
He's free now after discovering another prisoner who looked exactly like him.
Richard Jones was charged with aggravated robbery in Kansas City, Kansas. He was accused of trying to steal a purse in a parking lot.
Jones had an alibi and no physical evidence, such as DNA or fingerprints, ever linked him to the crime.
Witnesses told police the suspect was a light skinned Hispanic or African American man, and picked Jones' picture out of a lineup of six mugshots. That eyewitness testimony landed him behind bars.
"Eyewitness identification is fickle. It's extremely unreliable and errors are frighteningly too common," said Sara Azari, a criminal defense attorney.
Jones, who has adamantly maintained his innocence, tried unsuccessfully to appeal his conviction for 15 years until he teamed up with The University of Kansas Law Project for Innocence and the Midwest Innocence Project.
He told attorneys he heard there was another man in incarceration who looked just like him.
Interns for the project dug deep and found photos of another inmate at the same prison, Ricky Amos.
The men had almost identical skin tones, facial hair and cornrows.
"Once I had seen his picture beside mine, and I seen the resemblance me and him had, I just knew. It was understandable why other people would say the same thing," said Jones.
A judge ordered Jones' release after witnesses, including the robbery victim, admitted they couldn't tell the two apart.
Jones saw his look-a-like, who has also denied any involvement in the crime, for the first time at the hearing that would exonerate him.
"It was hard. I won't say it was easy because it wasn't but I made it through," said Jones.
Jones said he would like to work with the Innocence Project to help give freedom to others.
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