Crime

Man wrongly convicted in doppelganger case to receive $1 million under new Kansas law

Richard Jones free after 17 years in prison

Richard Jones speaks on his experience after being exonerated on aggravated robbery charges nearly 17 years after being arrested.
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Richard Jones speaks on his experience after being exonerated on aggravated robbery charges nearly 17 years after being arrested.

The State of Kansas will pay more than $1 million to compensate Richard Anthony Jones for the 17 years he spent in prison for a crime that was committed by someone who looked like him, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Tuesday.

The payment comes as part of an agreement to resolve the lawsuit Jones filed seeking compensation for the state’s mistake, which became known as the doppelganger case.

It was the first lawsuit filed under a new state law enacted earlier this year that provides compensation to people who are wrongly imprisoned, according to the attorney general.

“We are committed to faithfully administering the new mistaken-conviction statute,” Schmidt said in a written statement. “In this case it was possible on the existing record to resolve all issues quickly … so Mr. Jones can receive the benefits to which he is entitled by law because he was wrongly convicted.”

Jones, 42, was sent to prison for the robbery of a woman who was attacked in the parking lot of a Roeland Park Walmart in 1999. After he had been in prison for many years, other inmates pointed out to him that he bore a strong resemblance to another man — his doppelganger.

His attorneys were able to identify that man. They learned that he had the same first name as Jones and lived much closer to the Walmart where the crime occurred.

In June 2017, Jones’ attorneys showed evidence in a court hearing that witnesses, including the robbery victim, who looked at the pictures of the two men together could no longer say if Jones was the robber.

The conviction was overturned and Jones was released from prison.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, in announcing the state would not refile charges, called it “one of the most bizarre scenarios that I’ve seen in my 27 years of prosecuting cases.”

Tuesday’s resolution granted a total of $1,103,945 to Jones.

He was also granted a certificate of innocence, access to counseling and given permission to participate in the state health care benefits program in 2019 and 2020.

Records of his arrest and conviction were ordered expunged and any biological samples associated with his mistaken conviction were ordered destroyed.

In his petition for relief and compensation, Jones’ lawyers wrote that the actions ultimately taken by the state were necessary “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.”

The compensation sought, the lawyers wrote, “is relatively small given the unfathomable hardship of 17 years of wrongful imprisonment.”

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