This is the second part of a two-part series. If you haven’t yet heard Doppelganger Part 1, listen to that first.
Okay, now that you’re caught up: You’ll remember that Tamara Scherer’s testimony helped put Richard Jones, her presumed attacker, behind bars for 17 years. The Trouble host Shannon Cason talks with Tamara about how she discovered she chose the wrong man.
Then, for the first time, Tamara and Richard talk face-to-face about how a mistaken identity shaped their lives.
Listen to the entire episode on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Here are some of the highlights.
On her memory of the crime on May 31, 1999
Tamara Scherer: I was going to Walmart to get my daughter a sprinkler. I had my 8-year-old daughter with me. We pulled in the parking lot, drove around for a space, and parked. I got out and stood behind my vehicle, and I had seen this car drive past. And then it pulled up towards me real slowly, and then when my daughter got out of my car, I felt something jerk on my right arm really hard, like my shoulder. The person tried to pull my purse strap and yank it off me.
From there, it’s a little fuzzy. He pushed me, I hit him. At some point, my cellphone flew out of my purse. He pushed me and knocked me down. I landed on my back and then I used my feet and kicked him in his chest, stomach, backwards, and sent him flying. And then he took off and hopped in the car that was waiting.
On choosing a suspect in a photo lineup
Scherer: They asked me if any of the pictures looked like the attacker. I said I wasn’t real sure. And they said, well what do you think? So I said, it had to be this one because there was only one lighter-skinned person in the lineup. The rest had darker skin. So I chose the one with lighter skin.
I was not 100 percent sure. If I had been shown four pictures of lighter-skinned black men or Hispanic men, I don’t know if I would have been able to pick him out. So I guess I wasn’t too, too certain. And I said, well I think it’s this one here. And I do remember the detective telling me, “Well that’s who we have, someone else has already ID’d him.” At that point, I was pretty confident I had chosen the right person.
On finding out that she chose the wrong guy
Scherer: The Innocence Project explained to me that [Richard] said that he’s innocent. I was kind of skeptical, but I said I would talk to them. Then they showed me the two photos of Richard Jones and the other Richard [Ricky Amos] and said, “Can you choose the right guy?” And I said, “I don’t know; it’s the same person.” And they said, “No, these are two different people.”
That’s when alarm bells started going off, and I started thinking, Holy crap! Did I just help put the wrong person away for all this time? That’s when I really started to suspect.
It’s a flood of emotions. It’s confusion. It’s almost disappointment. Sadness. Sadness, definitely.
And then I started thinking and running through all this stuff in my head like, Oh my gosh, I helped put this person away. He had a small child at the time. That child never got to grow up with her dad. I just went through all of these different emotions. Remorse. Remorse. I felt so bad. It’s just tragic.
On preparing to meet Richard
Scherer: I’m nervous. Very nervous. Everyone says he’s not mad, but I would be incredibly angry. The whole system failed him. And in my head, it would make the most sense to start your anger off with the victim. The person that said, “You did this to me.”
I’m just nervous. I can’t help but feel bad. I mean, I had a hand in it. I had a big hand in it. You can’t just say, “Oh, sorry.” It doesn’t work like that.
So, I don’t know what I’m going to say to him. I don’t know.
To hear Tamara and Richard, the victim and the accused, meet for the very first time, listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
These interview highlights have been edited for brevity and clarity by Candace Mittel Kahn.
Some of the music used in this episode comes from the album “Jules Lives” by Ari De Niro as found on FreeMusicArchive.org, has been adapted, and used here under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 license.