Man in prison for 17 years set free after his lookalike is found | ABC News

now to a fairly different type of

redemption story a man who maintained

his innocence through almost 17 years in

prison has finally been released thanks

to his own detective work helping track

down his own look-alike

turns out looks can be deceiving here's

ABC's Alex Perez finally free after 17

years behind bars the man who says he

was wrongfully convicted returning to

loving arms I hope you prayed everyday

for this for his day to come in you know

and when it finally got here it was it

was overwhelming feeling Richard Jones

it's nightmare over after tracking down

another prisoner his doppelganger and

the discovery casting doubt on his

guilty verdict I believe it was a

striking resemblance it just blew me

away nearly 20 years ago Jones was

charged with aggravated robbery in

Kansas City Kansas after being accused

of trying to steal a purse in a parking


Jones had provided an alibi and no

physical evidence ever linked him to the

crime the case relied instead on

eyewitness testimony the victim told

police the suspect was thin too medium

build tan with dark hair pulled back and

out of a photo lineup of six mug shots

Jones was identified that eyewitness

testimony landed him behind bars but all

along Jones

adamantly maintained his innocence and

tried to appeal his conviction

I couldn't let someone else's a mistake

make me waver in my faith and never made

me shy away from what was real and what

the truth was and that was I was

innocent and I knew it after 15 years of

incarceration and decline motions

Richard Jones reached out to the

University of Kansas School of Law

Project for innocence and the Midwest

Innocence Project where law students

took on his case and met with their

client during that visit mr. Jones

actually said to the students I keep

getting mistaken for this guy named

Ricky Amos back at the office the

students searched the Kansas Department

of Corrections database for Ricky Amos

and here's what they found

that's Jones on the right Amos on the

left both men with almost identical skin

tone facial hair and cornrows that was

sort of

jumping-off point to then try and get

mr. Jones back into court to challenge

his conviction

what would the victim and the other

people that identified them say if shown

these pictures but the discovery of this

doppelganger came only at the end of a

case founded on what many consider to be

an imperfect law enforcement tool

eyewitness identification testimony is

always problematic because it's highly

unreliable memories are not recorded

playbacks like most of us think memories

are recalled it's a recollection and

there's a lot of inaccuracy that goes

hand-in-hand with that

and in fact about 72 percent of wrongful

convictions come from mistaken

eyewitness identifications the docket at

the Innocence Project reflects the

National Statistics on wrongful

convictions based on faulty eyewitness

testimony if I was gonna survive I

wanted to be able to bring the police a

description of who had just raped me

Jennifer Canino detailed account of her

rape led to the conviction of Ronald

cotton in 1984 then 22 year-old canino

was attacked in her home I thought I

heard a noise in my bedroom and I said

who is that who's there and at that

moment someone jumped up and jumped on

top of me I screamed and then he muffled

my scream with a gloved hand and put a

knife to the side of my neck the

assailant brutally raped her she said

that she kept her eyes open throughout

the attack trying to memorize every

identifying feature maybe if he had an

accent or a dialect that was different

or if he had any unusual scars or

tattoos or maybe he had lost a tooth or

something that would be a feature that

he couldn't alter later on cotton who

was also then 22 years old was sentenced

to life in prison he never gave up his

fight and in 1995 with the help of new

DNA technology he was exonerated my

spirit just like disintegrated I felt so

much shame and so much guilt for having

been really a large part responsible

not maliciously responsible but

imperfectly responsible for a man losing

11 years of his life and it didn't

matter how many times I said I was sorry

he didn't matter what I did I couldn't

give him back those years Jennifer

Thompson and Ronald Cotton's case is

just a very powerful reminder of how not

accurate our our memories often are even

when we want them to be their case just

exemplifies a lot of the problems that

happens in mr. Jones's case across

racial identification a very bad police

lineup they are very closely linked and

in the issues that they raised Jones and

Amos had never met until a hearing last

Wednesday when witnesses admitted they

couldn't tell the two apart and the

judge ordered Jones released it made a

lot of things understandable for me

concerning this whole case because I

just looked at how much me and his men

looked alike and it was was it was

unbelievable Amos has denied any

involvement with the crime he was never

charged with or found guilty of the


though most anecdotes about

doppelgangers may not usually involve

crime and possible mistaken identity

the mysterious phenomenon in which two

people look nearly identical is fairly

common are you two twin like Maddie

renzlo and Amber Eckhart the pair are

mistaken for twins but are complete

strangers folklore has it that we each

have seven look-alikes out there in the


Dublin native Nia Gainey is working to

prove that theory she's already met

three of her own doppelgangers


since then neons become a doppelganger

detective of sorts these are all the

filtered matches co-founding the website

twin strangers dot-com to help others in

their search we have over a million

people registered the website and we

have thousands of matches yes for

Richard Jones the discovery of his

doppelganger opened the door his release

after nearly two decades Jones has just

begun rebuilding his life

I'm definitely built for the challenge

you know just living my life starting

over and just want to write this song

for nightline I'm Alex Perez in Chicago