US man jailed 17 years in place of doppelganger finally released

Richard Jones (right) was convicted in 2000 of a robbery believed to have been committed by Ricky Amos (left).
Richard Jones (right) was convicted in 2000 of a robbery believed to have been committed by Ricky Amos (left).PHOTOS: KANSAS DEPT OF CORRECTIONS
The two looked so alike witnesses identified Richard Jones (right) as the robber and he was jailed 17 years.
The two looked so alike witnesses identified Richard Jones (right) as the robber and he was jailed 17 years.PHOTOS: KANSAS DEPT OF CORRECTIONS

KANSAS - A US man served 17 years of a 19-year sentence before it was discovered that he had been prosecuted in the place of a doppelganger.

For years, RichardJones languished in prison wondering why he had been jailed for a crime he did not commit.

He was convicted of aggravated robbery in 2000 for a snatch theft in the carpark of a Walmart in Kansas City.

But the day of the robbery, May 31, 1999, was his girlfriend's birthday and he was at a party with his friends and family.

Neither the woman who was robbed nor the security guard got a good look at the robber, but they knew he was a thin, light-skinned black or Hispanic man with dark hair, the Washington Post said.

Jones was arrested and identified in a police lineup.

At some point while Jones was behind bars, a man who looked very similar to him ended up in the same Kansas Department of Corrections facility, the Post said.

Inmates told Jones that a man who looks just like him was also a prisoner there.

"Hey, you were in the cafeteria and you didn't say hello to me," others said, according to his attorney.

Ricky Amos had been in and out of prison since the 1990s. Like Jones, he had braided hair, a goatee, dark eyes and thick eyebrows. They had the same skin tone.

Ms Alice Craig, Jones' attorney, began work on the case in 2015, after numerous appeals by Jones had failed.

She found out that Amos had lived near the Walmart where the robbery happened at the time.

When given the photos of the two men side by side, witnesses were no longer sure Jones was the robber.

"I am no longer certain I identified the right person at the preliminary hearing and trial," Ms Tamara Scherer, the robbery victim, said in an affidavit last year. "If I had seen both men at the time, I would not have felt comfortable choosing between the two men and possibly sending a man to prison."

Jones, now 41, was freed on Thursday, just two years short of finishing his prison sentence.

Amos will not be prosecuted for the robbery because the statute of limitation for the crime has passed.