MAGIC VALLEY — Charles Fain served 17 years on death row for the murder and rape of a nine-year-old girl, but DNA testing would later prove he did not commit the crime. He was freed from prison and on his way out was only given a pair of dungarees and a jacket.
“They didn’t even give Charles Fain the normal services that they would give to someone who has actually committed a murder and is leaving prison. The exonerees in this state were left in very bad shape when they were freed," Dr. Greg Hampikian, Executive Director of The Idaho Innocence Project, said.
Hampikian along with The Idaho Innocence Project lobbied to get Fain compensated for the time he spent behind bars, but they were unsuccessful. But after helping exonerate Christopher Tapp, a man who spent 20 years behind bars for the rape and murder of Angie Dodge, they were contacted by Senator Doug Ricks who wanted to help these exonerees.
“And I was so happy somebody is calling us to try and get compensation going," Hampikian said.
They worked together to create the Wrongful Conviction Act that would provide compensation to those wrongfully convicted. Sen. Ricks presented it to the legislative session last year, but Gov. Little vetoed the bill, voicing concerns over how parts of the bill, which included medical insurance, would be paid for.
After revising the bill and removing coverages like medical insurance, Gov. Little signed the bill into law alongside Christopher Tapp.
“Those stories change your life and I knew if the legislator and the governor could just talk to these guys, could just hear some of what it was like to just go into prison and have, in Chris’s case his father died and he can’t even see his dad when he’s dead," Hampiakian said.
Last week, The Idaho Innocence project helped free a man in Georgia who was wrongfully convicted of four rape cases. He spent 40 years behind bars.
“It’s a mixed set of emotions you have when someone is set free after 40 years, like what do you do?” Hampikian said.
The organization worked with the Georgia Innocence project to complete DNA testing at their Boise State lab since 2007. They also helped them with writing affidavits and reports for the case.
“Imagine somebody writes to you and says I have been convicted of not one rape case, but four, and I’m innocent," Hampikian said.
The Wrongful Conviction Act will give exonerees $62,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment or $75,000 for each year spent on death row.
They say their next goal is to get Christopher Tapp and Charles Fain the compensation they deserve.
“Mr. Fain is 74 years old and still working, he can’t retire. Maybe this will give him what he needs to get his health taken care of to retire. He’s a great guy, real salt of the earth, just good human being," Hampikian said.