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LIVE: Chris Tapp walks free

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11:42 a.m. Stephens signs the amendment. Tapp is about to walk out of the courtroom. Go the to EastIdahoNews.com Facebook page for live video.

11:42 a.m. Stephens asks both attorneys if the court has forgotten anything. Both attorneys say no.

11:41 a.m. Stephens says Tapp will be released from custody today with his sentence being completed and satisfied. Rape charge is dismissed and the sentence is vacated.

11:40 a.m. Stephens reads the amended stipulation and says he accepts it.

11:39 a.m. Stephens: “I recognize the impact the ruling I make today will have on not only the victims but also on yourself and the public in the state of Idaho. I believe that both the attorneys for the state and your attorney have worked diligently to reach a resolution that in my mind fills the needs for justice and fairness and therefore I can tell you that I’ve had to time review this and look at it and I do accept the stipulation.”

11:38 a.m. Stephens now addresses Tapp.

11:36 a.m. Danny Clark now stands and says the remedy put before the court believes it’s just and fair. Based upon that, he asks the court to adopt the agreement.

Judge Stephens thanks Clark and Thomas.

11:35 a.m. John Thomas, Tapp’s attorney, stands and says he has a long list of reasons why Tapp should be free but doesn’t want to take anything away from Carol and Brent.

“Everyone who needs to know knows that this is the right decision. I would ask the court to accept the resolution.”

11:35 a.m. Brent: “That’s what my sister would want. She would want healing. Ultimately the message we carry beyond this courtroom is find the DNA donor who wielded the knife that ultimately took my sister’s life so the healing can continue and be complete for us. Your honor, on behalf of our family and Angie, we absolutely would recommend that Chris be set free. Absolutely.”

Brent now leaves the stand. Everyone in the courtroom stands.

11:34 a.m. Brent: “I guess that’s the message – to remember this day as a day of healing. The second part of my message is those of you who are the messengers who have the ability to share this message beyond this courtroom, which you do, we all need to heal. That would be the message we hope you would spread.”

11:33 a.m. Brent: “Although the agreement isn’t perfect, it does provide the catalyst to allow healing to take place…healing not only for our family, but the community and the public servants who have worked on our behalf to see this through.”

11:31 a.m. Brent Dodge, Angie’s sister, takes the stand. “Chris, last time we stood face to face, it was a different conversation and I was wrong. I was having a conversation with a friend recently and he asked what I hope was the result of this proceeding and this agreement. We were talking back and forth…my friend introduced a theme and that was healing. He hoped that healing would take place and as I thought about that, it seemed to resonate as a very deep level for me.”

11:30 a.m. Carol: “You have your mom, Chris. You take care of her. Thanks.” Carol leaves the stand and the courtroom stands in silence. Angie’s brother now takes the stand.

11:28 a.m. Carol: “I think every person in this room is a victim of injustice. You ought to be really grateful that all those kids back there (in the courtroom) are here for you. I hope you will help me find justice for Angie. Sadly I don’t see any of the police department here – the ones that promised me they would continue on. Danny has promised that to me. As long as he sits in this seat, as a prosector, he will continue on.”

There is at least one member of the Idaho Falls Police Department in court.

11:26 a.m. Carol: “Today, Chris, the rape charge has been taken away. You don’t have to register as a sex offender. You’re not strapped with probation for 10 more years that we all know would have been the most horrible sentence. You would have been safer in prison. Like I said, go forward and be grateful. Stay in touch with everyone who has helped you. It’s not going to be easy, Chris. Today, if the judge allows it, you’re going to be walking out as broke as you were the night of June 12, 1996.”

11:25 a.m. Carol: “It’s not the deal your mother wanted. It’s not the deal I wanted. But life’s not a deal. Two weeks ago I was on the phone with Danny Clark at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday. They were just getting ready to go over to the jail to have you sign a piece of paper that Chris, it would have never given you the chance you have today. When I heard it, I said absolutely not. This can’t be.”

11:24 a.m. Carol: “The results came back from the DNA test excluding you. Then I researched and I read about it was just announced that we have a composite drawing that new technology has given us through the killer’s DNA a picture, a composite drawing, and I have seen that picture. He doesn’t look familiar. I don’t know who he is. I don’t know that I’ll ever know who he is. I don’t know he’s alive. I don’t know where he’s at. I can tell you it’s been one hell of a journey…and you’ve had a lot of people working really hard to bring you to this day.”

11:23 a.m. Carol to Chris: “They programmed me to believe that you’re the one who cut her chest. That’s not true because when they tested her clothing and the skin cells your DNA wasn’t found.”

11:22 a.m. Carol is now discussing the hairs found on Angie and the DNA tests 20 years ago. She contacted a DNA expert in Boise and they were sent in for testing. They came back and a few were Angie’s hairs but the other hair was someone else.

11:21 a.m. Carol: “For 13 years they programmed my mind that you did it.”

11:20 a.m. Carol to Chris: “Go forward and give of yourself. Peace be with you, my friend. Angie.”

Many observers in the courtroom are crying and wiping tears from their eyes.

11:18 a.m. Carol: “What would Angie say to you, Chris?” She would say, “Going back 20 years ago is not part of the Creator’s plan. 20 years ago we would sit by the river. Those were the fun days. The days of high-fives. Then suddenly as the sun set on June 12, 1996, everything was about to change in all of our lives. Little did I know it would be my last hours on earth. Little did you know that six months later you would be facing life in prison locked in a cell with steel doors. Now it’s 20 years later. That’s an earthly time. And you’re beginning a new beginning that will set you somewhat free. Today is a new chapter. Go forward without bitterness and without a hardened heart. From this day forward it’s up to you – the path that you choose. Stay clean and stay sober. Stay on track. When you feel strong, take big giant steps. When you’re weak, lean on your higher power. Your mother has loved you unconditionally Chris through all of this and now it’s time for you to give back.”

11:16 a.m. Carol: “I stand here today not as a victim but I’m a survivor of a crime that took my daughter’s life. Although she’s not physically here today, she’s here in spirit. I am her voice. As I wrote the last night, I know she’s been with me every step of the way.”

Carol now reads from statement.

“Thank you to everyone who has brought us to this day. Everything will be made right in time. There is a reason and a season for all things. Have faith. Justice will be made right.”

11:16 a.m. Carol: “For 13 years, I’ve watched the interrogation tapes. They’re long and disgusting and agonizing. You’re not actually going free, Chris, but you’re a long ways from where you were yesterday.”

11:15 a.m. Carol: “For 13 years, I was really angry at you and you were angry with me. I remember visiting you in Pocatello at the jail asking you what my baby’s last words were. Little did I know that you didn’t know. I didn’t know…” Carol grabs a tissue and wipes her tears.

11:14 a.m. Carol takes the stand, is crying and says she can’t comprehend living for 20 years in a 4×8 cell with only a “cot and a pot.” “To make it worse, it’s surrounded by concrete walls, steel doors and wire fences.”

11:12 a.m. Danny Clark says there will be victim impact statements and Carol Dodge now takes the stand.

11:11 a.m. Stephens asks Tapp if he has any questions about the proceedings or agreement that his attorney has not answered. Tapp says no.

11:10 a.m. Stephens tells Tapp if he enters this agreement, he waives his right to continue appeals from the case.

11:09 a.m. Stephens asks Tapp to explain, in his own words, what this agreement means. Tapp says he’s agreeing to the murder charge and he will have served 20 years for the charge. Stephens says if the court accepts the agreement, Tapp would still be convicted of first degree murder with a weapons enhancement. Tapp says he understands.

11:08 a.m. Stephens asks Tapp if he’s had sufficient time to speak with his attorney about the agreement. Tapp says yes. Tapp says he read the stipulation – every line – before he signed it.

11:07 a.m. Stephens asks if Tapp had any questions and Thomas says those questions were all answered. They read the agreement together and in Thomas’ opinion Tapp was in the state of mind to understand what was going on.

11:05 a.m. Tapp’s attorney, John Thomas, agrees to the agreement. Stephens asks Thomas if he has discussed this agreement with Tapp and Thomas says Tapp is fully engaged and aware of negotiations going forward.

11:04 a.m. Bonneville County Prosecutor Danny Clark explaining the agreement between the State and Tapp. Tapp agrees to keep murder conviction & weapons enhancement on his record but rape charge is dismissed. Tapp gets a 20 year prison sentence – which he has already served.

11:02 a.m. Judge Alan Stephens allowed a pool camera in the courtroom. NBC News is shooting the proceedings and will give EastIdahoNews.com the footage. We will post the entire hearing later today.

11:02 a.m. An attorney with the Idaho Innocence Project is seated next to Tapp. Bonneville County prosecutor Danny Clark and John Dewey are at the prosecutors table.

11:00 a.m. Judge Alan Stephens has just entered the courtroom.

10:55 a.m. – Chris Tapp has just entered the courtroom. He is wearing a white striped button-up shirt and is smiling as he looked at a packed courtroom.

Tapp is sitting at the defense table with his attorney John Thomas.

The courtroom is full. Staff have brought in extra chairs to make sure there is enough room for everyone.

ORIGINAL STORY
IDAHO FALLS — A man convicted in the 1996 rape and murder of an 18-year-old woman is expected to be released from prison this morning.

Chris Tapp will appear in a Bonneville County court at 11 a.m. Wednesday. After a one-hour hearing he will be a free man after spending more than 20 years in prison.

EastIdahoNews.com will be bringing you minute-by-minute coverage of the hearing here.

Pre-Hearing Interviews

Chris Tapp

Vera Tapp

Carol Dodge

RELATED CONTENT:

EXCLUSIVE: Chris Tapp speaks from behind bars about pending release

Chris Tapp’s attorney: ‘Victory! We have victory!’

Bonneville prosecutor: We will double efforts to find Angie Dodge’s killer

Tapp’s mother: ‘I’m so overwhelmed my son is coming home’

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