BOISE — Legislation to compensate people wrongly convicted of crimes in Idaho cleared the House on Tuesday and is headed to Republican Gov. Brad Little.
Lawmakers voted 70-0 to approve the measure that would pay $62,000 a year for wrongful incarceration and $75,000 per year on death row.
“It is incumbent upon us to try to make this right,” Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt told fellow lawmakers during debate on the House floor. “It still doesn’t make it right. But it’s something that we can do.”
Backers say Idaho is one of 15 states that doesn’t compensate people sent to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. A similar measure cleared both the House and Senate last year, but was vetoed by Little amid concerns it contained unfunded mandates in the form of education and medical expenses.
Ehardt said Little supports the new version that replaced those unfunded mandates with an increased lump-sum payment. The legislation cleared the Senate 35-0 earlier this month.
Six people who served time in prison could qualify for a payment if the bill becomes law, supporters say.
One of them, Christopher Tapp, was in the House gallery. He was convicted of rape and murder in 1998 following the 1996 death of Angie Dodge. He was released in 2017, and DNA evidence cleared him in 2019. Another man has since pleaded guilty.
Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel addressed Tapp from the House floor.
“I just want to say how sorry I am at how badly the system failed you,” she said. She thanked him for taking the “terrible misfortune that befell you” and using to create “a better justice system for Idaho and try to rectify our laws and bring better justice to this state.”
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