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Idaho Lawmakers Consider Bill To Pay Wrongfully Convicted

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Screenshot/Idaho Public Television
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An Idaho House committee is considering a bill that would give monetary compensation to people who have been wrongfully incarcerated.

Idaho is one of 15 states that does not offer compensation to those people once exonerated.

 

During a hearing for the bill on Tuesday, lawmakers in the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee heard from two men who were imprisoned in Idaho for crimes they didn't commit.

Christopher Tapp spent 20 years in prison for the 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge in Idaho Falls until DNA evidence showed he wasn't at the scene. He was released in 2017 and exonerated in 2019. Tapp testified before the committee in favor of the bill that would compensate the wrongfully convicted.

 

“I was released from prison with nothing but my freedom," Tapp said. "I had no financial resources, no way to rebuild my life or to meet my daily needs."

As an exoneree, he was not entitled to the transition benefits typically given to those released from prison.

Also testifying was Charles Fain who was convicted in 1983 of raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl and was sentenced to death. After spending almost 20 years on death row, Fain was released in 2001, after DNA testing proved his innocence.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Doug Ricks (R-Rexburg) who has support from the Idaho Innocence Project, a criminal justice nonprofit led by Boise State professor Greg Hampikian that helped free Tapp. The bill would set up a fund to give exonerees $60,000 per year of wrongful incarceration or $75,000 per year spent on death row. 

“We can't restore the time that’s been lost, but we can try to do the best we can as a state to provide restitution and try to make this right," Ricks said.

Four people exonerated in Idaho would qualify for this bill, Ricks said, based on the records kept by the National Registry of Exonerations, which date back 30 years. 

The House committee responded favorably to the testimony presented in support of this bill, and will consider whether to send it to the full house for a vote.

 

Correction: A previous version of this story stated the National Registry of Exonerations began 30 years ago. This is incorrect. The registry was co-founded in 2012 and has records of cases that date back 30 years.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

 

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