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Idaho Innocence Project

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The Idaho Innocence Project is part of the Forensic Justice Project at Boise State University.  Our mission is to correct and prevent wrongful convictions in Idaho through research, education, and litigation. Since 2005, we have helped start innocence organizations in Montana, Oregon, Ireland and France, worked on cases with 27 Innocence organizations in the US, and are now part of the Forensic Justice Program at Boise State University that investigates DNA cases throughout the US and abroad.

Idaho Innocence Project Lab helps overturn conviction with new DNA evidence after 43 years

Today the GA Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling for a new trial for Johnnie Lee Gates.  Mr. Gates has spent 42 years in prison, convicted of murder, rape, and robbery.  He was sentenced to death and spared only because his lawyers argued that he was intellectually disabled.  Gates has long maintained his innocence in hand-written court filings.

In 2015, the Georgia Innocence Project (GIP) investigated the case and was told by police and prosecutors that all the evidence had been lost or destroyed.  In a remarkable discovery, two student interns with the Project went to review the case file at the prosecutor’s office and found what appeared to be key evidence.  in a lumpy manila envelope labeled bathrobe and neckties.  These items had been used to tie up the victim and had been collected during the original investigation.

The GIP project consulted with DNA analyst Dr. Greg Hampikian at Boise State University’s Idaho Innocence Project lab.  Hampikian has a Department of Justice grant to test old evidence items with new DNA procedures and software for inmates claiming innocence.  He found that the evidence was suitable for advanced testing, and the GIP then asked a judge to grant testing.  The request was granted, and Hampikian with the GIP arranged for the items to have DNA extracted at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).  After testing at the GBI, Hampikian analyzed the data and then arranged for further analysis by TrueAllele software (Cybergenetics), paid for through his DOJ grant.  Hampikian submitted an affidavit explaining that his analysis and the TrueAllele software agreed, Mr. Gates was excluded from the ligatures.  He went on to explain that TrueAllele had identified the same DNA profiles on both pieces of evidence.  Hampikian and Dr. Mark Perlin of Cybergenetics attended the May 2018 hearing where Dr. Perlin presented his final results.  The state also called a scientist from the GBI to testify.  Mr. gates was represented at hearing by the Georgia Innocence Project and the Southern Center for Human Rights.

In January of 2019, the Georgia court ruled in Gates’ favor and granted him a new trial, based on the new DNA evidence.  However, the state appealed and Mr. Gates remained in prison.  Today’s decision by the Georgia Supreme Court affirms Mr. Gates’s right to a new trial.

Hampikian and Clare Gilbert Director of The Georgia Innocence Project at the Georgia hearing about new DNA evidence in the 1976 Murder.

Photo of evidence found by Georgia Innocence Project interns, which ultimately overturned Mr. Gates 1976 conviction for murder, rape, and robbery.

Interview with Christopher Tapp and Greg Hampikian

Boise State Public Radio Interview

Christopher Tapp Receives Full Exoneration

Boise State Public Radio Article

Christopher Tapp in Court Monday, July 1 at 11AM. Exoneration?

Could Monday be the day that ends Christopher Tapp’s two decades of wrongful conviction?

The Idaho innocence Project is pleased to announce that Christopher Tapp will be in court on Monday July 1, 2019 for a status conference.  We are hoping that the prosecutor will take this opportunity to address what is now a tortuously long process of exoneration.  Police announced in a press conference on May 16, 2019 that Brian Dripps confessed to stabbing Angie Dodge on his own in 1996.  Mr. Dripps is a match the DNA evidence in the case, including semen and a pubic hair recovered from the victim’s body.  At that press conference, the Idaho Falls Police chief Bryce Johnson announced that

“Chris Tapp is another very important part of this case that deserves its day in the sunlight, and we will do that…that day will be in a couple weeks and we’ll do that, whatever is right in a couple of weeks. We need a little more time to dot i’s and cross t’s.”]

It is our hope that Chris will have his day of promised sunlight.  I have attached a partial timeline of DNA testing in the case for those who are interested.

The status conference is public, and we’ll be there.  Please consider joining us.

Monday July 1, 2019    Hearing set for 11:00 am
Judge Alan C. Stephens
Bonneville County Courthouse
605 North Capital Ave., Idaho Falls, ID 83402

Read “What happened to Tapp should never happen again”

Read the Idaho Post Register Editorial about Chris Tapp – Our Crime

June 1, 2018 Jenkins and Lawrence freed – Murder charges dismissed for 2 former Montana inmates after convictions overturned

April 25, 2016 Darryl Pinkins EXONERATED after 25 years by the work of Frances Watson (since 1999) and her students at University Indiana McKinney Law School Wrongful Convictions Clinic, the Idaho Innocence Project (since 2006), and TrueAllele’s Mark Perlin (since 2014).  New DNA technique used to exonerate for the first time. See CBS News

Watch Forensic DNA Mixups

TEDx Boise. x = independently organized TED event from 1/16/2015.

Amanda Knox thanks Greg Hampikian and Idaho Innocence Project at Boise State
Amanda Knox legal fight highlights fallibility of DNA forensics
BBC Radio series “Troubling flaws in Forensic Science,” Dr. Greg Hampikian a professor in the Biology and Criminal Justice Departments at Boise State University, and the Director of the Idaho Innocence Project discusses his work on the Amanda Knox case. Listen here: future/story/20150512-can-we-trust-forensic-science


March 14, 2014: Sarah Pearce Freed After 12 Years.
Pictured with her mom (left) and aunt.

Idaho Innocence Project Sponsors Eyewitness Identification Best Practices Seminar

Our Team
Front row: Rick Visser, IIP; Lisa Burger, NYIP; Dr. Jennifer Dysart, John Jay College; Rebecca Brown, NYIP; Ify Ike, NYIP.
Back row: Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney; Norwood Police Chief WIlliam Brooks; Judy Townsend, IIP; Nora Staum, IIP; Dr. Greg Hampikian, IIP

On November 13, 2012 the IIP sponsored an eyewitness identification seminar for local law enforcement agencies. Speakers were Rebecca Brown from the national Innocence Project, Chief William Brooks from the Norwood, MA Police Department,  Professor Jennifer Dysart from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Rick Visser, formerly of the Idaho Innocence Project.  The two-hour seminar was very well received, and the IIP thanks all who attended and participated. The seminar’s goal was to advocate best practices in Idaho in eyewitness identification. 75% of the 301 wrongfully convicted cases in America involved misidentification. TO DONATE TO THE IDAHO INNOCENCE PROJECT, PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW:

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MAIL: Idaho Innocence Project | Biology Department, 1910 University Drive | Boise, Id 83725-1515 |  To report crime tips to the police, please call Crime Stoppers at 343-COPS or 1-800-222-TIPS, text “Tip236 plus your message” to 274637, or go online to .