On March 3, Governor Brad Little signed a new Wrongful Conviction law that will compensate people who serve time in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Idaho exoneree Christopher Tapp attended the signing and commented. “I’m grateful knowing that in the future when someone is exonerated, this law will be in place to help them when they need it most.”
“Wrongfully convicted people deserve recognition for all we have lost,” he said. (Photo: Tapp and family with Gov. Little at the signing.)
Tapp was cleared in 2019 of all charges related to the rape and murder of Angie Dodge. The Idaho Innocence Project took on Tapp’s case in 2007, eventually working with the victim’s mother in pushing for new DNA testing. In 2012, the IIP proposed a new type of DNA analysis, forensic genealogy, to the Idaho Falls Police. Police investigators trained with the Hampikian lab at Boise State and discovered the last name ancestry of semen recovered from the victim. In 2019, the last name identified was followed up by further genealogical work through Parabon Nanotech and CeCe Moore to identify a new suspect who admitted to the crime and told police that he acted alone. Tapp served 20 years in prison before his release.
Tapp spoke not only about his own experience but that of his fellow exoneree Charles Fain, who was also released from prison based on Innocence Project DNA evidence. “This law will help Charles be able to have some measure of comfort during his golden years after working for the last two decades to rebuild his life after losing 18 years on death row.”
The legislation includes payments of $62,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment or $75,000 for each year on death row.
“This was one of our first goals when we started the Idaho Innocence Project at Boise State in 2007,” IIP Executive Director Greg Hampikian said. “Staff members worked very hard on it over the years. The final passage is a testament to the power of Mr. Fain and Mr. Tapp’s stories. From the very beginning, we knew that if the elected officials just spoke with these two amazing men, they would understand.”
IIP Legal Director Robin Long and Stoel Rives are now creating legal history with the first two compensation filings for wrongful conviction in Idaho, Hampikian added. “It will be a very satisfying day when Chris and Charles receive their long-awaited help.”