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New bill would offer relief to the wrongfully convicted

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Christopher Tapp, who was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Angie Dodge, is kissed on the back of his head by his mother, Vera Tapp, at his exoneration hearing in July 2019. | EastIdahoNews.com file photo

BOISE — A local legislator introduced a bill that would provide relief for wrongly convicted Idahoans.

Idaho is one of 15 states that do not offer compensation to those who have been wrongfully convicted after they’ve been released from prison. Rep. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, is hoping to change that with a new bill he introduced Wednesday.

“We’re going to provide some relief by way of funding,” Ricks told EastIdahoNews.com. “(The bill) will also provide some services if they need a little bit of health care, some housing starts, some assistance that way.”

The Idaho Innocence Project, led by Boise State University professor Greg Hampikian, announced it supports Ricks’ bill.

RELATED | Good Question: How many innocent people go to prison?

“(Christopher) Tapp and others in his situation face the difficulty of life after exoneration in Idaho,” according to a news release from Boise State University.

Ricks said his bill was inspired by Tapp’s wrongful conviction and his exoneration more than 20 years after being sentenced to prison.

Doug Ricks

Tapp was convicted for the rape and murder of Angie Dodge in 1998 in Idaho Falls. He was exonerated in July 2019. See previous stories on the Angie Dodge case here.

Now Tapp has stepped into a legal battle with the city of Idaho Falls for compensation for the years he spent in prison.

Ricks said he followed Tapp’s case closely. After Tapp’s exoneration, Ricks checked to see if the state had any laws that allowed the wrongfully convicted to receive compensation.

RELATED | Chris Tapp officially exonerated of rape and murder charges

RELATED | Chris Tapp sends notice of his intent to sue Idaho Falls

“We don’t in Idaho, and I felt that we needed to fix that,” Ricks said.

Ricks said the monetary compensation will correlate with how long a wrongfully convicted person was incarcerated.

“So however many years that they’ve been in jail, we’ll provide some equal amount of compensation per year,” he said.

The services that are in the bill are similar to services that convicted felons are able to receive when they are released from prison.

Currently, someone who has been exonerated and released from prison is not entitled to those same services.

“We essentially just put (the wrongfully convicted) out on the side of the street and say sorry. We’re trying to fix that with this bill,” Ricks said.

Ricks introduced the bill to the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee at the State Capitol Building, where it will go up for debate before an eventual vote.

EastIdahoNews.com will provide more details on the bill as it goes through the legislative process.

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