Guilty until proven innocent

Eric Fink

Guilty until proven innocent

CREATED Apr. 30, 2013

On June 13, 1996, 18-year-old Angie Dodge was raped and murdered in her Idaho Falls apartment.

In 1998, Chris Tapp was sentenced to 25 years to life for the crime. But, for years, renowned DNA expert and Boise State Professor Greg Hampikian has championed Tapp's innocence.

"All of the DNA says just the victim and one unknown male definitely not Chris Tapp," Hampikian the director of the Idaho Innocence Project said.

Hampikian says the only evidence the state has against Tapp - his confession given to police after more than 40 hours of questioning. The scientist says the convicted killer gave a false confession.

"He [Tapp] was offered a deal," Hampikian said. If Chris said he was part of this and could name the other guy, the guy who left the DNA, then he could do no time in prison. He had a complete immunity deal and as a young man it seemed like a good deal to him. He thought he could name the perpetrator and he guessed."
Tapp guessed wrong. He later told police he was there the night Angie Dodge was killed. For 15 years he has sat behind bars.

The victim's mother, Carol Dodge, believes Tapp is not her daughter's killer.

She has worked with the Innocence Project and Tapp's public defender to overturn his conviction.

Hampikian says the state recently produced new DNA evidence and that evidence alone should be enough grant Chris Tapp a new trial.

"I don't think any of us can imagine what's it's like to spend so many years in prison for something you haven't done," Hampikian said.

"In theory, we have the best justice system in the world," Idaho Innocence Project assistant director Jared Hoskins said. "But just like any other system that's administered by human beings, it's subject to error."

An error, Dr. Hampikian argues must be corrected to spare an innocent man and Angie Dodge's family from continued grief and injustice.

"Science is truth and that's an unfair advantage," the local DNA expert said. "I'm sure that the truth is going to win out here."

Last summer, a judge denied Tapp's request to get out of jail early.