Man who spent 20 years in prison released after identical twin confesses to murder

Identical twins, Kevin Dugar (left) and Karl Smith. Credit: Illinois Department of Corrections

A man from Chicago who spent nearly 20 years in jail for murder has been released after his identical twin confessed to the crime.

Kevin Dugar broke down in tears as he walked free from the Cook County jail last week after his brother, Karl Smith, confessed to the 2003 killing of Antwan Carter. He was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to 54 years in prison. 

Smith is already serving a 99-year sentence for an armed robbery which ended in a six-year-old boy being shot in 2008. He confessed to the crime his brother had been put away for saying he had "nothing to lose".

He first admitted to the crime in a letter to his brother in 2013, nearly a decade after Dugar had been jailed. He then signed a sworn confession in 2014, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“I have to get it off my chest before it kills me,” Smith wrote in a 2013 letter to his imprisoned brother, as he confessed to the crime. “So I’ll just come clean and pray you can forgive me.”

But a judge ruled in 2018 that Smith's confessions were not credible and refused Dugar a new trial, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Dugar’s conviction was later reversed by the Court of Appeals, although the Cook County state’s attorney’s office could still reopen the case.

His lawyer Ronald Safer told NBC News on Friday: "The judge granted his release pending trial on a signature bond and he walked out into the open air and breathed his first breaths as a free man in almost 20 years.

"It was gratifying to watch his tears roll down his cheeks and their cheeks before (their tears) froze on their faces because it was about 7 below."

Safer said he hoped the case, which he described as a "made-for-TV" tale, would not have to go to court again. 

"We are hopeful that the (Cook County) state’s attorney will drop the case against Kevin and then do what they will, but drop the case against Kevin because he’s innocent," he said.

"It’s clear that he’s innocent, but if they persist we will go to trial and we will vindicate him at trial."

Smith changed his name to his mother's maiden name, but when they were growing up, they acted as "one person", and became active gang members.

Even now the men cannot be distinguished easily other than by their prison clothes.