Double vision: KU Project for Innocence frees wrongfully imprisoned man after finding doppelganger

KU News Headlines

LAWRENCE — The outlook for Richard Jones appeared bleak when University of Kansas School of Law Project for Innocence interns Chapman Williams and Chad Neswick took over his case in 2015.

Despite maintaining his innocence from the start, Jones had already spent 15 years in prison for aggravated robbery – convicted after the victim and witnesses of a purse snatching identified him in a police lineup. Without new evidence to counter the eyewitness testimony, relief seemed unlikely.

Then something happened that made everyone see the case differently.

Inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility — where Jones was serving his 19-year sentence — started mistaking him for another guy on the inside named Ricky Amos. Jones reported the look-alike confusion to the Project for Innocence, and Williams and Neswick tracked down mugshots of Amos.

“They looked like they could have been twins,” Williams said. “From there, other pieces of the puzzle began fitting together.”

Nearly two years later, Jones is enjoying a new view. He walked free this month after a Johnson County judge reversed his conviction and ordered his release. Jones held his 2-year-old granddaughter for the first time and enjoyed a barbecue with family and friends.

“Working on Richard’s case has taught me to look at every case with care,” said KU Law student Brenna Lynch, who helped draft the petition that won Jones another chance to challenge his conviction. “It’s bittersweet. We were able to help Richard, and now he gets to be with his family and live as a free man again. But it’s hard knowing that almost 20 years of his life were taken from him for a crime he didn’t commit.”

‘No other option’

On May 30, 1999, Jones celebrated his girlfriend’s birthday by hosting a Memorial Day weekend barbecue in Kansas City, Missouri. The next day, he was home all day cleaning up.

A few miles across the …

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