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Exonerated, but still not free Joe Jones was the first person in the state to be exonerated of a crime by DNA evidence, but life after prison has been difficult. Now authorities have identified the man they say is responsible.

Wrong place, wrong time

In 1986, Joe Jones was convicted of a rape he didn’t commit. Topeka investigator Jim Kenney was convinced of Jones’ innocence. How could a gay man be guilty of a violent rape?

Wrong place, wrong time

Topeka man Joe Jones, talks about being spotted on Kansas Avenue in the early morning hours of Aug. 25, 1985, by a woman who was raped the night before. The woman identified Jones as the rapist, eventually sending him to prison on a life sentence.

For first Kansan exonerated through DNA, freedom remains elusive

Joe Jones made history when he was exonerated of a 1985 rape. But the chance encounter that put him behind bars haunts him nearly 20 years later.

It’s been a long, winding road for Joe Jones, from convicted rapist to one of the first people in the country exonerated by DNA, to where he is today: an unemployed former drug addict who’s spent the past decade in and out prison for crimes he really did commit.

They got away with it’

Seasoned investigator Jim Kenney worked for Jones' original defense team. Kenney, who always believed in Jones' innocence, began focusing his investigative efforts on showing that another man, Joel Russell, possibly committed the crimes. At the time, Kenney said Jones and Russell looked very similar. However, it's not clear if there were any efforts by police or prosecutors to investigate Russell following Jones' exoneration. The DNA in the case, though, is still in storage at the original testing lab, and could possibly be tested now.

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