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Defense for Brian Dripps asks he be released from jail because of COVID-19

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Brian Dripps sitting next to his defense attorney Jim Archibald. | EastIdahoNews.com file photo

IDAHO FALLS — Defense attorneys for Brian Dripps are asking he be released from jail because of his health.

Dripps, 54, is the man the Idaho Falls Police Department arrested on May 15, 2019, for the rape and killing of Angie Dodge in 1996. DNA left at the crime scene matched Dripps’, and when interrogated, Dripps confessed, police said. Dripps is charged with first-degree murder and rape.

RELATED | Dripps says he didn’t mean to kill Angie Dodge and acted alone, according to court documents

Angie Dodge | File photo

In a motion filed Thursday, defense attorneys Jim Archibald and Elisa Massoth say Dripps’ health places him at higher risk of contracting and dying from the novel coronavirus. The defense team asks that District Judge Joel Tingey opt to place Dripps on house arrest at his mother’s home in Caldwell.

“Because it is almost certain Mr. Drips could die if infected with COVID-19, releasing him from custody is more likely to ensure his appearance in court than keeping home in pre-trial confinement,” Archibald and Massoth wrote in a memorandum supporting his release.

The filed motion comes just over a week after the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office reported almost an entire pod of inmates in the Bonneville County Jail tested positive for COVID-19. Dripps has been held in jail without bail for over a year awaiting a 2021 trial.

Archibald and Massoth say Dripps has several debilitating medical conditions, including congestive heart failure, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, obesity and arthritis. In supporting documents, the nurse practitioner that treated Dripps for more than seven and a half years before his arrest says that if Dripps contracts COVID-19, he is at risk of death.

Quarantining Dripps in jail “is not a constitutional solution,” Archibald and Massoth say.

The defense team says that releasing Dripps would not place anyone at danger as the victim is dead, and no one witnessed the crime. Archibald and Massoth further say that Dripps does not pose a risk to the public as he has limited mobility and has never been accused of a serious crime until now.

RELATED | Attorney for man accused of killing Angie Dodge argues he’s a ‘kind, loving father’

“Keeping him (Dripps) alive to stand trial would protect the integrity of the court process and avoid the cruel and unusual punishment of death before finding of guilt,” Archibald and Massoth say in court documents.

The Idaho Office of Attorney General, which serves as the special prosecutor on the case, objects to releasing Dripps. Deputy Attorney General Kristina Schindele says in her objection that Dripps is not entitled to bail or release because of the seriousness of the allegations. The Idaho Constitution does allow a person to be held without bail on capital offenses.

Dripps’ health is not the only concern presented by Archibald and Massoth. Earlier this year, Archibald and Massoth asked for the confession Dripps gave to Idaho Falls Police detectives be suppressed. A hearing to hear the argument of the defense and determine if the trial will be moved out of Bonneville County is scheduled for Sept. 30.

“Since the filing of the motion, a worldwide pandemic, known as COVID-19, broke out, causing the cessation of travel between states and significantly hindering the defense team from consulting with experts in this case,” Archibald and Massoth write in another motion to push back the Sept. 30 hearing.

Schindele also objected to this hearing, saying the defense team has already consulted with a psychological expert and referral for a medical examination. She says nothing in the motion to suppress the confession raises any issue with Dripps’ ability to waive his rights.

“The State is concerned that the continuing delay with respect to the motion to suppress may adversely impact and jeopardize the trial date,” Schindele writes in her objection.

RELATED | Chris Tapp officially exonerated of rape and murder charges

A status conference in the case where Tingey will likely hear argument in the matters is scheduled for Aug. 26. The 7th Judicial District plans to stream the hearing for public viewing since access to the courthouse is limited due to COVID-19.

RELATED | Carol Dodge almost gave up looking for her daughter’s killer. Then she felt Angie say, ‘You’re almost there, Mom.’

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