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Idaho Falls wants Tapp lawsuit thrown out

Angie Dodge

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Christopher Tapp breaks down after a judge exonerated him in 2019. | Eric Grossarth, EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS — The city of Idaho Falls and others sued by Christopher Tapp are asking for a lawsuit against them to be thrown out.

In a motion to dismiss or strike filed last week in federal court, the city and other defendants claim Tapp’s allegations of “coerced” confessions can’t be litigated because of previous rulings by the Idaho Court of Appeals.

Jared Fuhriman, Steven G. Finn, Ken Brown, Curtis Stacey, Phillip Grimes, Kent Livsey and Steve Roos — seven former Idaho Falls Police officers associated with the case — are listed as defendants in the lawsuit along with the city. Fuhriman served as mayor of Idaho Falls from 2006 to 2013.

They are represented by Seattle-based attorneys from the Christie Law Group, the Boise law firm Scanlan Griffiths Aldridge + Nickels, and Hall Angell & Associates from Idaho Falls.

More than 23 years ago, Tapp confessed to Idaho Falls Police detectives that he raped and killed Angie Dodge in 1996. DNA evidence never tied him to the case, and he was ultimately exonerated in 2019 when police learned DNA left on the body of Dodge was linked to another man, Brian Dripps.

A jury convicted Tapp in 1998, but Tapp went on to defend his innocence. He filed appeal after appeal, arguing that the confession should be suppressed because of coercion. The Idaho Court of Appeals ultimately ruled to keep it on the table.

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“Plaintiff should not be permitted to relitigate the issue of whether his statements made to law enforcement were voluntary because the issues surrounding those statements have already been fully adjudicated,” attorneys for the city and other defendants write in the motion.

Despite this, Tapp kept fighting and was released from prison in 2017, and he was exonerated after investigators arrested Dripps. Police have said they believe Dripps acted alone in the rape and slaying of Dodge.

The lawsuit filed by Tapp makes allegations against Roos, the former Idaho Falls Police Department chief. Tapp’s legal team argued that Roos ignored the Idaho Innocence Project in 2009 when they presented how DNA could help point to relatives to the then-unknown killer.

Attorneys argue Roos had no duty to follow up on the DNA test, and such responsibilities fell upon Tapp and his defense attorneys. Additionally, any claims against former IFPD officers sued should be dismissed because no bond was filed before the lawsuit, according to the motion. Under Idaho law, the attorneys say, to file a claim against law enforcement, a bond process must be followed before the actual lawsuit.

“These sort of motions to dismiss are common in wrongful conviction cases,” said Katie McCarthy, an attorney for Tapp with New York firm Neufeld Scheck and Brustin. “You can tell from the complaint itself how serious the misconduct was in Chris Tapp’s case. We’re very confident in our claims.”

McCarthy called Tapp’s case exceptional since a judge vacated his conviction, unlike other cases in Idaho’s history.

“We’re eager to move forward with the case,” McCarthy said.

A federal court hearing on the motion is scheduled for April 21 at the federal courthouse in Pocatello.

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