IDAHO FALLS — John Thomas has been Christopher Tapp’s court-appointed attorney for years. He has been fighting to get his client out of prison and believes Tapp is not responsible for the rape and death of Angie Dodge in Idaho Falls more than 20 years ago.
Thomas agreed to speak with EastIdahoNews.com reporter Natalia Hepworth on Tuesday afternoon about an agreement that will allow Tapp to walk free Wednesday.
Here’s a transcript of the interview.
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com: You’ve been working on this case for a really long time now. What does the possibility of Chris Tapp being released Wednesday mean for you?
John Thomas: It’s the culmination of a lot of years of hard work and it means that someday we will get Chris Tapp out of prison and he will be a free man, and that day is tomorrow, and so we are super excited about it.
NH: Can you tell me about the terms that are in place?
JT:The judge has kept the stipulation, and he will read that at open court. Generally what’s going to happen is Chris Tapp is waiving his rights to appeal. He’s going to waive his rights to the post convictions that he has now. We’re going to withdraw all of those. The conviction for murder will stand. He’s been convicted of murder by a jury that will stand. He will not allocute — he will not say that he was part of it, he will not say he was there. Just the conviction will stand. The rape conviction will be vacated and dismissed, so he will not be a sex offender.
His sentence will be reduced from 30 years plus life in prison, down to 20 years and so he will hopefully be walking out of the courtroom a free man tomorrow. Worst case scenario they may have to take him back to the jail to process him, but we’re certainly hoping that the judge will order him released immediately and that he’ll be able to walk out of the courtroom a free man.
“The killer’s DNA is on (the sample from Angie Dodge’s hands). No one else’s DNA is on there.”
NH: Is this a resentencing hearing?
JT: What we’ve decided to call it is a resentencing. Basically Chris Tapp will be sentenced under the current post-conviction petition that we have the judge has jurisdiction under that petition to visit the original conviction that was in the 1997 criminal case.
NH: What has changed in the last month or so that has led to the potential for Chris to be let free?
Thomas: It hasn’t really been the last month. We’ve been getting evidence coming in over the last several years. A year and a half ago we had hand swabs tested from Angie Dodge’s hands. Back in 1996 — they were never tested back then. We’ve recently had those tested. The test came back exactly how I thought it would come back. The killer’s DNA is on there. No one else’s DNA is on there.
NH: What is the risk of winning? What is the risk of losing?
Thomas: If we lost at this hearing, he’d be looking at another 10 years before he’s parole eligible. And if we wanted the hearing, we have risk of losing at the court of appeals level, we have a risk of losing at the Supreme Court level. The state has already indicated that if we were to go through the hearings and they were going to lose, that they were going to appeal, and if we were going to lose, we absolutely would have appealed as well. So there’s that risk … both parties have a lot to lose here.
NH: Would you like to add anything else?
JT: Victory! We have a victory! Victory for Chris Tapp, a victory for the justice system. It’s a victory. We’re absolutely convinced that Chris Tapp is innocent. Although he’s not being completely exonerated and that he is still going to be a convict and convicted, he’s walking free. He’s not going to be on parole. He’s not going to be on probation.