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He was wrongfully convicted in Idaho Falls. Now the city will pay millions for its mistake

UPDATED: Fri., June 10, 2022

Chris Tapp has settled with the city of Idaho Falls after he was wrongfully convicted.  (Darin Oswald)
Chris Tapp has settled with the city of Idaho Falls after he was wrongfully convicted. (Darin Oswald)
By Nate Eaton Idaho Statesman

Christopher Tapp and the city of Idaho Falls agreed to settle a lawsuit Thursday for $11.7 million.

Tapp was wrongfully convicted in 1997 for the rape and murder of 18-year-old Angie Dodge. He tried multiple times to appeal the conviction and his DNA did not match DNA at the crime scene.

Tapp was ultimately released from prison in 2017 and exonerated in 2019 when investigators arrested 54-year-old Brian Dripps. Dripps pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison in 2021.

“No dollar amount could ever make up for the over 20 years of my life I spent in prison for crimes I did not commit. However, the settlement will help me move forward with my life,” Tapp said in a statement Thursday night.

The settlement provides that the city of Idaho Falls discuss possible reforms to its interrogation techniques with leading experts on the subject, according to a news release from Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, Tapp’s attorneys.

Tapp sued the city of Idaho Falls and the Idaho Falls Police Department in federal court in October 2020. The city asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit but the Idaho Falls City Council approved the settlement Thursday.

“Chris Tapp’s wrongful conviction never should have happened; DNA cleared him over 20 years ago,” said Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin. “We hope this settlement is a wake-up call to the many police departments still using the same practices of lying, deception and coercion as Idaho Falls did — and that it still needs to reform — so that other innocents don’t suffer like Chris Tapp has.”

Mayor Rebecca Casper apologized to Tapp and his mother in a letter and promised the city will do better moving forward.

“Please accept this sincere apology to you and to your mother, Mrs. Tapp, for the city’s role in your wrongful conviction and subsequent incarceration, as well the harm and damages that you and your family have endured over these many years,” Casper wrote. “We at the city of Idaho Falls hope that the resolution of your civil case and this sincere expression of an apology help bring healing and closure to both Mrs. Tapp and to you. In addition to the settlement, the city pledges to review its policies, procedures and training (especially related to custodial interrogations) and to revise them, as needed, to prevent any recurrence of what happened in your case.”

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