The state of Kansas has agreed to pay a man $1.1 million after significant doubt was cast on his guilt.
How did this happen?
Richard Anthony Jones, 42, has spent the last 17 years in prison for a robbery that he has always insisted he didn't commit. There was never any hard evidence to link him to the crime, but he was found guilty based on the testimony of eyewitnesses who identified him as the culprit.
However, thanks to work by the Midwest Innocence Project and the Paul E. Wilson Defender Project, the state was presented with new information: a man who looked almost exactly like Jones lived right near the site of the robbery at the time the crime occurred. This man's face had not been present in a set of photos that had been presented to the eyewitnesses. In fact, none of the photos they were shown looked like the description they had given, except for Jones.
The lawyers working to free Jones argued that the way this was handled was "highly suggestive" to the witnesses. When the original eyewitnesses were shown the pictures of Jones and the other man, they could not say for certain which man had committed the crime.
While the other man has not been charged with the nearly two-decades-old robbery, this evidence was enough for District Judge Kevin Moriarty to order Jones to be released.
Jones told KDAF-TV that "belief in God and praying" kept him strong during his time in prison. He also said that he plans to look to the future instead of dwelling on the past and that he thinks that this experience has given him "a platform to speak for people who can't speak for themselves."
The overturned conviction was only the beginning. Jones also became the first person to get a compensated for his wrongful imprisonment under a new Kansas state law.
The payout in his case added up to $1,103,945. He was also granted a certificate of innocence, which could be crucial if he tries to get a job after so long in prison, as well as counseling and two years of state-provided health care.