CRIME

Kansas man free after 17 years in prison after lookalike raises doubts in case

"You have to find some type of peace because if not, you're going to drown."

Nearly 17 years in prison for someone else's crime: A Kansas City's man freedom only came when his look-alike showed up in prison too.

Richard Jones is enjoying his first weekend of freedom after nearly 17 years behind bars.

He always maintained his innocence when KCK police linked him to a 1999 robbery. Eyewitnesses pointed to his mugshot back then.

But they couldn't be sure. When presented with side by side images of another man.

Now he has his life back, thanks to his faith and the tireless work of wrongful conviction advocates.

Richard Jones is free for the first time this century. Nearly 17 years behind bars for a crime he always said he didn't commit.

FOX 4's Rob Collins talked with Jones and his father about time in prison, his release, and what's next for the man who says the system failed him.

Richard Jones' father, Fred, couldn't believe it when he got the news his boy was free.

"She said, 'they let him go' and I said, 'nuh-uh.' She said, 'yeah, they let him go. He'll be out first thing in the morning.'"

According to independent studies, between 2 and 5 percent of inmates in the US are innocent. The Midwest Innocence Project says it takes 7 to 10 years to exonerate an innocent prisoner.

"I didn't know what he looked like anymore, because he was so young when he went there, I didn't know what he looked like," Fred explained.

But nearly 20 years ago, a robbery victim and an eyewitness apparently did. In court, there was no DNA, no fingerprints, no physical evidence, just testimony. But it was enough to get a conviction and a sentence of 19 years.

"It's not something you wrap your mind around. It's surreal. It's hard to believe you're actually going through it," Richard said.

Read more from FOX 4 Kansas City.