A Kansas City man who spent nearly 17 years in prison for purse snatching was released Wednesday after a judge overturned his conviction.
The 10th Judicial District Court in Johnson County vacated Richard Jones’ 1999 aggravated robbery conviction. He had been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison.
But according to officials with the Midwest Innocence Project, Jones was convicted based solely on eyewitness identification, despite presenting a verified alibi.
The Innocence Project and the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence at the University of Kansas worked for Jones’ release.
Alice Craig, Jones’ attorney and professor at KU’s Project for Innocence, said the case highlights the flaws in eyewitness identification.
Craig said witnesses were presented with no other option but to choose Jones because he was the only light-skinned person in a photo lineup of suspects.
In a second lineup, four of the six suspects had blue eyes even though none of the witnesses had described the assailant as having blue eyes.
“None of the other photos matched the description provided by the witnesses,” Craig said in a statement released Thursday.
Although Jones had previously exhausted his appeals, the court found that he was entitled to another “to prevent a manifest injustice,” Craig said.
Evidence presented during the hearing pointed toward another man as the culprit, she said.