Gov. Little to sign the Idaho wrongful conviction bill at Idaho Falls ceremony
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IDAHO FALLS — Gov. Brad Little will be in Idaho Falls Friday to sign the Wrongful Conviction Act.
The legislation, SB1027, provides state compensation for the wrongfully convicted in Idaho. The bill was brought to the Legislature by Sen. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, and Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls. They worked alongside Christopher Tapp, a local man who was exonerated for the murder of Angie Dodge in 2019, after spending 20 years wrongfully imprisoned.
Tapp was exonerated based on new DNA evidence that identified the real perpetrator many years after Tapp was coerced into falsely confessing to the crime, according to a news release from Little’s office. Tapp was convicted despite no physical evidence connecting him to the crime.
Alongside fellow Idahoan exoneree Charles Fain, Tapp has been a strong advocate for this legislation.
The legislation includes a fixed sum of $62,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment or $75,000 for each year wrongfully served on death row. The average amount offered nationally through state compensation laws is $68,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment, according to the release. In addition to Washington D.C., eighteen states offer $50,000 or more for each year of wrongful incarceration with many laws providing additional compensation for years served on death row or on post-release supervision.
For Idaho exonerees like Fain and Tapp, who were left without support for fundamentals like housing, transportation, health services or insurance, and with a criminal record that is rarely cleared despite innocence, the punishment lingers long after innocence has been confirmed and they have been released from prison.
Compensation will help exonerees start to get back on their feet and begin to live the life they lost to a wrongful conviction.
This is the second time a wrongful conviction bill has been brought to the governor. Ricks tried to get the law passed in 2020, but it was vetoed by Little over concerns about how some of the bill would be paid for. Ricks explained to EastIdahoNews.com that among the changes of the 2021 bill are removing a clause that included medical insurance and tuition waivers for college credits. With the changes, Little is expected to pass the bill into law.
The signing ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Friday in the Centennial Court Room inside the Bonneville County Courthouse.