IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) – After spending nearly two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, Christopher Tapp was exonerated from the wrongful conviction of the 1996 murder of Angie Dodge Wednesday.
“I’m thankful that I’ve been given this second chance of life,” Tapp said.
In 1998, Tapp was found guilty of Dodge’s rape and murder after giving a false confession under police coercion. The wrongful conviction resulted in Tapp spending two decades behind bars.
“I wasted 20 years of my life for something I never did, but again, I also grew up those 20 years,” Tapp said.
According to a member from Tapp’s legal team, Tapp is the 367th person to be exonerated by DNA testing nationwide. 28% of people who have been proven innocent through DNA made false confessions during custodial interrogations.
“What we can do is commit to learn from the past and make the truth and justice more important than conviction rates,” said Tapp’s public defender John Thomas.
“I hope that things get learned from this mistake, and I hope things get changed and things get better where there’s never another mistake like this ever happens again in this community or in this state,” Tapp said in a press conference.
Tapp said the biggest thing is, “I don’t ever want anybody to ever forget about Angie Dodge,” Tapp said. “That is the one thing in this world that people sometimes do forget because she is foreshowed sometimes with all of this that is going on right now. I hope nobody ever forgets Angie Dodge.”
As for the future, Tapp says he is excited to begin his new life, and for the moment is still processing the liberating news he got Wednesday.
“The world has changed again, you know, two years ago, I accepted the fact that I was going to be a convicted felon and I didn’t have certain rights, I couldn’t do certain things and I couldn’t go to certain places, live a different life. Now I don’t have to worry about that. It’s a new life, new beginning, a new world for me, and I’m going to enjoy it every day, but I’ll still continue doing what I’ve been doing, going to work and living the life that I should have been living for the last 22 years,” Tapp said.
Tapp says his family plans to stay in the area for a while, and he is excited to continue at his current job.
It was also a day of mixed emotions for Angie’s mother Carol Dodge whose determination led to finding the DNA experts that led to Christopher Tapp’s exoneration.
She said she was thrilled Tapp is not only free but has a totally clean slate in the murder case because the right thing had been done. But sad when she thinks of all the years he lost in prison, and she lost without her daughter.
“Those same 20 years that got taken from you Chris, it’s the same 20 years that got taken from your mother, and it’s the same 20 years, and it’s the same 20 years that got taken from me,” said Dodge. “Although we all lost that 20 years, how do you balance the scale, because Vera got Chris back? I don’t get Angie back. And Chris, it’s like setting a bird free. Chris is free to fly, and I’m still kind of on the ground wounded and I don’t know how to fix it.”
Dodge also talked about Brian Dripps, the man whose DNA matched the murder scene and confessed to the killings earlier this year.
While she says she does have hard feelings, she can’t help but feel sorry for him and his family and the impact this will have on their lives.