A man who spent 17 years in prison after being falsely convicted of a crime believed to have been committed by a man who looks like him will receive a $1.1 million settlement from the state of Kansas under a new false conviction law.
The payment is part of the settlement reached Tuesday in a lawsuit Richard Anthony Jones brought against the state of Kansas for his wrongful conviction. This is the first lawsuit filed under the mistaken-conviction statute, which provides compensation to people who are wrongly imprisoned, said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
“We are committed to faithfully administering the new mistaken-conviction statute the Legislature enacted,” Schmidt said in a statement. “In this case, it was possible on the existing record to resolve all issues quickly, satisfy all of the statute’s requirements, and agree to this outcome so Mr. Jones can receive the benefits to which he is entitled by law because he was mistakenly convicted.”
Jones, 42, was released from prison last year. He was convicted in the 1999 robbery of a woman in the parking lot of a Roeland Park, Kansas, Walmart store, CNN reported. Although Jones had an alibi -- he was at a birthday party at the time of the robbery and was seen by many people -- he was blamed for the crime anyway. In a trial, witnesses and the victim identified Jones as the robber.
After Jones had been in prison for many years, other inmates pointed out to him that he bore a strong resemblance to another man, The Kansas City Star reported. After some research, Jones' attorneys learned the other man, identified by CNN as Ricky Lee Amos, went by the same first name as Jones and had lived much closer to the Walmart where the crime occurred.
Furthermore, a witness had written down the license plate number of the car involved in the robbery. The number was connected to an address where Amos had lived, according to CNN.
During a court hearing in June 2017, Jones' attorneys showed witnesses, including the victim, mug shots of both Jones and Amos. When the victim could no longer definitively identify Jones as the robber, a judge overturned his conviction and ordered his release from prison.
The statute of limitations on the crime has passed, so Amos cannot be prosecuted.
In addition to the $1.1 million, Jones 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, the newspaper reported.
Jones doesn't have any ill will toward Amos, said attorney Alice Craig.
"I don't think so, because it's not Ricky's fault that this happened, but ultimately he was the one we believe who was responsible for the crime," Craig told CNN. "Ricky has never admitted to the crime and I think (Jones) ... was somewhat disappointed that he didn't admit to (it)."
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