Richard Jones free after 17 years in prison
A man freed from prison last year after serving 17 years for a Johnson County robbery committed by his look-alike is petitioning the state of Kansas for compensation.
Richard Anthony Jones filed a petition Wednesday in Johnson County District Court, where a judge last year ordered his release from prison.
“Mr. Jones now asks this court to officially recognize his innocence, so that he may close this painful chapter of his life and obtain the clean slate and financial support that the Legislature intended for wrongfully convicted persons,” his lawyers wrote in a court filing seeking an official declaration of innocence.
The legal action asks that Jones be awarded $65,000 for each year of his incarceration for a total of $1,117,466. It also requests compensation for attorney’s fees and costs.
“This compensation is relatively small given the unfathomable hardship of seventeen years of wrongful imprisonment,” the petition says.
It also seeks additional compensation for tuition, housing assistance and counseling.
Jones, now 42, was convicted of robbing a woman in the parking lot of a Roeland Park Walmart in 1999.
At trial, prosecutors based their case on eyewitness identifications of Jones.
Jones presented alibi witnesses who testified he was with them on the day of the crime.
But a jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to 19 years in prison. The conviction was upheld on appeal.
It was only after Jones had been in prison for years that he learned from other inmates that he had a doppelganger — there was another man who looked uncannily like him.
His attorneys were able to identify that man.
They also found that the other man had the same first name as Jones and lived near the area where the crime occurred, while Jones lived across the state line in Kansas City.
At a June 2017 court hearing, the attorneys presented testimony from witnesses, including the robbery victim, who testified that looking at pictures of the two men together, they could no longer say if Jones was the robber.
After the hearing, Johnson County District Judge Kevin Moriarty threw out the conviction and ordered Jones’ release from prison.
Moriarty ruled that, based on the new evidence, no jury would find Jones guilty. Johnson County prosecutors announced they would not refile the charges.
Jones’ lawyers say that he meets all the requirements under Kansas law to be awarded compensation for being the victim of a wrongful conviction.
“It is hard to imagine how Mr. Jones can truly get a fresh start without the assistance sought, having lost so many years behind bars when he could have been getting an education, developing his skills, and pursuing and rising within his chosen profession,” the lawyers wrote.
The petition is pending in Johnson County District Court.
Online court records indicate a judge has been assigned to the case.