Man freed from jail after 17 years when lookalike discovered - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Man freed from jail after 17 years when lookalike discovered

The man always maintained his innocence after being sentenced to 19 years for a 1999 robbery. (Source: Kansas City Police Department/WDAF/CNN) The man always maintained his innocence after being sentenced to 19 years for a 1999 robbery. (Source: Kansas City Police Department/WDAF/CNN)

KANSAS CITY, MO (WDAF/CNN) – After nearly 17 years in prison for someone else’s crime, a Kansas City, MO, man was finally released when his lookalike showed up in prison too.

Richard Jones is free for the first time this century after he was convicted to a 19-year sentence for a 1999 robbery. The man always maintained his innocence.

But nearly 20 years ago, a robbery victim and an eyewitness indicated Richard Jones was the man who had committed the robbery. There was no other evidence, only testimony.

"I don't think it's something you wrap your mind around because it’s surreal. It's hard to believe you're actually going through that,” Richard Jones said.

However, a key piece of new evidence brought forward by the Midwest Innocence Project led a judge to order the man’s release.

Another man, also named Richard, went to prison, and his mugshot was eerily similar to Richard Jones’ mugshot.

When eyewitnesses saw the pictures side-by-side, they could no longer be sure Richard Jones was a criminal.

The Midwest Innocence Project believes Richard Jones was mistaken for the other Richard.

Between 2 and 5 percent of inmates in the U.S. are innocent, according to independent studies.

"It doesn't get the type of attention that it should get because it's purely Injustice and that's not right. We're supposed to be able to depend on our justice system,” Richard Jones said.

With no support from the courts, Richard Jones says he relied on God and his family to get him through.

"Belief in God and praying, that kept me strong. I had my days, but it was pretty much just praying and having a support system. That's the only way I got through it,” he said.

Fred Jones, Richard’s father, says he couldn’t believe it when he heard his son was free.

"She said, 'They let him go.' I said, 'Nuh uh.' She said, 'Yeah, they let him go. He'll be out first thing in the morning,’” Fred Jones said.

But after nearly 17 years, Fred Jones wasn’t sure what to expect.

"I didn't know what he looked like anymore because he was so young when he went in there. I didn't know what he looked like,” he said of his son.

The family reunited after Richard Jones was released June 8, and they say the experience has made them closer.

"This actually brought our family closer together, but that's what family does in times of tragedy and things of that nature: they come together,” Richard Jones said.

Fred Jones hopes his son will now be able to move forward with his life.

"I think he's going to take this, the negative, and turn it into something positive. I think he will,” he said.

Richard Jones agrees with his dad.

"Everything that happened, there's nothing I can do to change it. I move forward and I look forward to the future and what's going on with me now, and I just feel like this has given me a platform to speak for people who can't speak for themselves,” he said.

The Midwest Innocence Project says it takes seven to 10 years to exonerate an innocent prisoner.

Most states have laws that compensate wrongful conviction victims, but Kansas, where Richard Jones was incarcerated, does not. Kansas exonerees can still seek compensation through civil lawsuits.

Copyright 2017 WDAF, Midwest Innocence Project, Kansas City Police Department via CNN. All rights reserved.

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