Thursday, March 23, 2017

Idaho man who didn't match DNA from killing is freed

But he will still have a hard time finding a job.

Mar. 23, 2017

An Idaho man who experts say was coerced into a false murder confession was freed Wednesday after spending half of his life behind bars.

A judge released Christopher Tapp after vacating his rape conviction and resentencing him to time served for the 1996 killing of Angie Dodd.

The release came after years of work by Tapp’s attorney, public defender John Thomas, and advocates, including Judges for Justice, the Idaho Innocence Project and the victim’s mother, Carol Dodge.


Tapp was a 20-year-old high school dropout at the time. He was interrogated for hours and subjected to multiple lie detector tests by police before confessing, but DNA evidence taken from the scene didn’t match Tapp or any of other suspects in the case.

The release doesn’t exonerate Tapp — his murder conviction still stands under the plea agreement that transformed his 30-years-to-life sentence to time served. But the agreement allowed Tapp to leave the courtroom as a free man after spending 20 years in prison. He otherwise wouldn’t have been able to seek parole until 2027.

“Chris Tapp is innocent,” his attorney, Thomas, told the Post Register newspaper Tuesday. Still, Thomas said, the plea deal was the right decision because it came with the certainty of freedom.


Over the next few weeks, Tapp was interrogated nine times and subjected to seven polygraph tests. At various times, police officers suggested he could face the death penalty, told him that he was failing the lie detector tests, suggested he may have repressed memories of the killing and offered him immunity if he implicated Hobbs and another suspect. He eventually confessed to being involved in the death.

But none of the DNA found at the crime scene matched Tapp, Hobbs or the other suspect. It all belonged to the same unknown man, according to the analysis.

Prosecutors, seemingly unaware of the nature of some of the police contact with Tapp, accused him of lying and rescinded his plea deal. Tapp was convicted after his recorded confession was played for the jury.

Over the years, advocacy groups for the wrongfully convicted began fighting for Tapp’s exoneration. His attorney tried to get the conviction overturned, but was stymied by Idaho’s strict one-year statute of limitations for some post-conviction proceedings and a limited court record.


A polygraph expert recruited by the group, Boise State University professor Dr. Charles Honts, said the polygraphs were used “as a psychological rubber hose in an effort to coerce a confession.”

Under the plea deal, Tapp can’t continue legal efforts to get his conviction overturned and must pay into Idaho’s victim compensation fund.

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