Bill to compensate those wrongly convicted heads to Senate

Posted at 2:38 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 18:33:24-05

BOISE, Idaho — Legislation that would compensate the wrongly convicted headed to the Senate on Wednesday.

The House voted 70-0 to approve the measure that would pay $60,000 a year for wrongful incarceration and $75,000 per year on death row.

Republican Rep. Doug Ricks said Idaho is one of fifteen states that doesn’t compensate people sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

No one spoke against the legislation. Backers say the state needs to take responsibility when an innocent person is incarcerated.

“All of us can agree that when we put someone in jail wrongfully who was in fact innocent, it’s one of the worst things that we can do to a citizen,” Ricks told his fellow lawmakers.

Ricks said there are four wrongful-convicted cases that could result in payouts. Two of the most notable involve Christopher Tapp, who spent seventeen years in prison, and Charles Fain who spent seventeen-and-a-half years in prison. Fain spent most of his time on death row.

In 1998, Tapp was convicted of rape and murder following the 1996 death of Angie Dodge. He was released in 2017, and DNA evidence cleared him in 2019. Brian Leigh Dripps was arrested on DNA evidence last year, and is charged with rape and murder in Dodge’s death.

He “was a kid when he went to prison,” Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt said of Tapp, who was twenty years old when Dodge was killed. “We cannot give Christopher Tapp and others their lives back. I think they’d rather have that than any monetary amount we could give them. But I do feel this is important that we move forward, and we try to do something because their lives were ruined.”

Fain was convicted of kidnapping, rape and murder in 1983 following the death of nine-year-old Daralyn Johnson. In 1984, he was sentenced to death. But DNA evidence not available at the time of the conviction later cleared him, and he was released in 2001. Johnson’s killer has not been identified.

(by Keith Ridler, Associated Press)