The following is statement from the Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office.
Questions have abounded over the past twenty years regarding the above case. Most recently the questions have been: What is just? What is fair? What is right? What action ignores the advocates and agendas but listens to the evidence?
Some comments have resonated in my mind over the past six months since the independent investigator’s report was released and since I reached my conclusion that there is not clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s innocence. The victim’s mother has said “whether Tapp did it or not, he’s been in prison long enough.” The independent investigator stated that his “sentence seemed too long for what the State can show Tapp did.” Others have opined similarly in the public forum.
To be clear, there is not sufficient evidence to prove Tapp is innocent- which is the proper legal question at this time. There are questions and concerns that have been raised by many factions. I have appreciate all those who have opined regarding their belief and opinions. All criminal cases should withstand a level of scrutiny for our criminal justice system to work. That being said, anyone who says the evidence proves Tapp is innocent is operating from a biased agenda or his or her own personal belief. To the extent some of have raised questions causing this office to vet the evidence in this case, this has been welcomed by this office. These questions have been balanced by this office against the nature of the evidence vetted by the jury and courts over the years.
The State’s focus for the past two years has been to consider this case in the context of the evidence alone, while considering questions and concerns that have been raised. I have recently posed the same question of every law enforcement officer and prosecutors who have handled this case: “If we could go back twenty years, and there was a plea agreement reached, as there is in most cases, what would the defendant’s sentence likely be for his part of this crime?” In every conversation, each one said a sentence between 10-25 years would have been appropriate.
Tapp’s attorneys approached me several months ago to discuss settlement options. Based upon those preceding thoughts we agreed to discuss a settlement. His attorneys made an offer to me recently with terms consistent with what was done here today. In considering all of the evidence, the level of Mr. Tapp’s involvement in the crime and the likely sentence had this case played out differently, I accepted their offer. Their offer was to have the conviction for First Degree Murder and weapons enhancement stand, dismiss the Rape conviction, and serve a twenty year sentence for the crime.
Today’s hearing finalized the question of Christopher Tapp’s guilt-which had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury of his peers in 1998. Today’s hearing also considered the questions that have been raised through the post-conviction process, and balanced the evidence against equitable concerns regarding the length of the defendant’s sentence. From the State’s perspective, justice has been served in regards to Christopher Tapp.
The State will continue to pursue justice for Angie Dodge.
Daniel R. Clark
Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney