IDAHO FALLS — Bonneville County Prosecutor Danny Clark sat down with EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton Tuesday afternoon to talk about the Christopher Tapp agreement.
Tapp was convicted in the rape and death of Angie Dodge in Idaho Falls more than 20 years ago.
In the interview, Clark also discusses what happens next with the case.
Here’s a transcript of the conversation.
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com: What’s going to happen tomorrow at this hearing?
Danny Clark, Bonneville County prosecutor: We’ve got a hearing set for tomorrow at 11 a.m. titled a resentencing hearing. There will be a lot of legal things that occur, but ultimately there’s been an agreement reached where Mr. Tapp will be resentenced.
Eaton: How did this agreement come about?
Clark: That’s a long conversation. Let me give you a few thoughts.
A lot of people have said to me, specifically Carol (Dodge, Angie Dodge’s mother) has said, ‘Danny, whether he did it or not, hasn’t he served long enough?’
My investigator made some similar comments regarding the level of his involvement versus what his sentence ought to be.
With that, I went and spoke with every investigator and prosecutor that’s handled this case and I asked them the same question: ‘If you could go back 20 years and consider what a settlement would have looked like back then, forgetting all of the noise and vested interest and agendas, what would that have been?’
Without fail, every one of them put this case somewhere in the 12-to-25-year range. So I had that information.
Mr. Tapp’s attorneys approached me some time ago. They made me an offer last Saturday night based upon the things we’ve considered and considering things that may have happened 20 years ago, I felt it was a fair resolution of the case. So we agreed to move forward with the case.
Eaton: So he will leave prison, but the murder conviction will still be on his record, right?
Clark: The gist of the agreement is he agrees to a murder conviction for the rest of his life — a first-degree murder case.
“The evidence does not exonerate him, and it never has.”
He agrees that the weapons enhancement that he was convicted of would also stay.
The state agrees to dismiss the rape charge. That would have been fairly typical in any other agreement in a case like this.
Then we’ve agreed to a 20-year sentence plus some additional time based upon what we could show is his conduct for that crime.
We have to remember Mr. Tapp was always accused of and found guilty of playing a small role in a much larger very heinous offense. His role was always a very small portion of that and so trying to balance that conduct against what the appropriate consequence is — that’s what led us to this conclusion.
Eaton: Some people would say, ‘Why not wipe his record clean? Completely get rid of the charge?’
Clark: I understand that. People come at this with a lot of different opinions and I can appreciate all of those. We’ve certainly heard plenty.
We said years ago we would give this a fresh look and we’ve done that. Our investigator, I think, gave as honest of an opinion as he could.
He puts Mr. Tapp at the crime scene with some minor level of involvement. It’s fairly consistent with what the jury ultimately found.
In my review of the evidence, the evidence does not exonerate him, and it never has. Anyone that suggests these new things that are coming up over the last couple years exonerate him just simply are operating from the position of an agenda that I don’t have the luxury of doing.
I’ve got to base it on objective analysis of the facts and, frankly, do what I think is also fair for our community, fair for Mr. Tapp, in some respects, and try to balance that conduct against what it deserves. I think this satisfies that.
It’s important to note that the defendant gives up this current and any future appeal rights. He’s agreeing to this, and he came forward to me to offer this. I think that was appropriate.
I think our community needs some closure. I think we need to heal from this, no matter what side of the equation you’re on, and I think those things have some benefit.
Eaton: When Mr. Tapp walks out tomorrow, will he be on probation, or he is done?
Clark: There was some conversations about that and I think there’s some merit on both sides of that conversation.
It’s my understanding Mr. Tapp wants to leave (the area), and the reality is if he was on some supervision, he wouldn’t be allowed to. I don’t know if that is healthy for him or the rest of our community. That was a factor that kind of went into this.
Another factor is with all the people that said he would have been out years ago had this case played out differently — the fact that he served so much longer than he would have done also played a factor in whether there ought to be more supervision or time held over his head. That’s why we ultimately decided not to go that route.
Eaton: The DNA evidence — that was brought up in his original trial 20 years ago.
Clark: Absolutely. Absolutely. The entire defense was, and the parties agreed to this, there was DNA at the scene that does not match Mr. Tapp. That was what the jury heard. They knew all of that.
There’s some advancements in DNA technology and those will keep getting better, and we’ll keep running down those leads — so there’s some changes in terms of what DNA is available but the concept that the DNA does not match Mr. Tapp was always the defense.
The other defense was his confession was false. The jury heard that. The defense put on that he had confessed falsely and that was what they argued. Ultimately, the jury decided that was not true.
The idea that either one of those things are newer concepts is not accurate.
Eaton: In making this agreement, has Mr. Tapp agreed to provide you with additional information that might help with the investigation?
Clark: Regardless of what side of this you’re on, anything Mr. Tapp says is suspect as best. What we all agree on is he certainly has lied multiple times, so any statement from him is worthless from my perspective.
There’s been discussions over time regarding him naming other people, and there’s been potential agreements that may have occurred over time.
Ultimately, we get to this point where we’re simply dealing with the amount of time he served for the conduct he committed. We thought that was fair, and any effort to have him cooperate any further has been unfruitful thus far.
Eaton: There’s a killer out there.
Eaton: Where does the case go now?
I think from my perspective — myself, as well as the police department, can double our efforts. I have a seen a great effort on the part of the police department to work down that portion of the case. That’s aside from Mr. Tapp.
We know there’s others involved no matter what side of this you’re on — either the killer or the other killers, it just depends on your perspective.
We know there’s others and I’ve seen a good effort by the police department. I think that will continue. On my watch, it certainly will.