After spending nearly half of his life in prison for a crime he said he did not commit, and then getting released early from prison but still tagged with a murder-related conviction, Chris Tapp finally might get exonerated.
Tapp’s attorney and the prosecuting attorney are asking the court to vacate Tapp’s conviction.
“There exists clear and convincing evidence that (Tapp) was convicted of a crime he did not commit,” Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Clark wrote in a court filing. “Therefore, the state moves that the court grant post-conviction relief ... set aside the jury verdict and vacate the judgment of conviction and dismiss (the) case.”
In May 1998, an Idaho Falls jury convicted Tapp for aiding and abetting in the murder and rape of Angie Dodge in 1996. Tapp was sentenced to life with a minimum of 20 years for aiding the murder and a minimum of 10 years for aiding the rape. He would be eligible for parole in 2027.
While incarcerated, Tapp maintained his innocence — his DNA did not match the DNA collected at the crime scene — and filed with the court five unsuccessful petitions for post-conviction relief.
Eventually, on March 22, 2017, Tapp was released from prison after reaching a deal with prosecutors, but his murder-related conviction remained on his record.
On Wednesday, his attorney filed a sixth petition “based on new evidence that Christopher Tapp is actually innocent.”
“New evidence has been discovered which negates the conviction” of Tapp, Bonneville County public defender John Thomas wrote in the court filing.
The day after Tapp’s attorney filed the petition, Clark filed a post-conviction relief motion on behalf of Tapp with the court.
“The basis for this motion is that new, credible material evidence has been discovered by law enforcement,” Clark wrote.
So, what is that new, credible evidence both sides are citing?
On May 16, Idaho Falls police announced that they had arrested Brian Leigh Dripps in the rape and murder of Dodge.
Following decades of dead ends, a nationally renowned genetic genealogist linked DNA from the Dodge crime scene to Caldwell resident Dripps, who lived across the street from Dodge when she was killed.
“During his confession to the rape and murder of Angie Dodge, Dripps admitted that he acted alone. Furthermore, Dripps told investigators that he did not know Tapp and nor had he ever met Tapp,” Tapp’s attorney wrote.
Tapp’s post-conviction relief hearing is set for 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, in Idaho Falls before Judge Alan Stephens.