Christopher Tapp, who spent two decades behind bars for the 1996 rape and murder of Idaho Falls resident, Angie Dodge, is expected to be exonerated this week. As reported in the Post Register, unreliable evidence — a coerced confession and testimony from a witness who later recanted and claimed police pressured her — prompted the jury’s guilty verdict in 1997. But Tapp’s nightmare is expected to end in a hearing before Seventh District Judge Alan Stephens on Wednesday, July 17, thanks to a newer use of DNA, genetic DNA analysis.
In prison Tapp maintained his innocence — the crime scene DNA did not match him — and unsuccessfully petitioned the courts five times for post-conviction relief. His recent sixth petition is supported by a filing from Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Clark, who has asked that Tapp’s conviction be vacated, opining, “There exists clear and convincing evidence that (Tapp) was convicted of a crime he did not commit.”
What caused this reversal of official response to Tapp’s petitions for relief? Genetic DNA analysis led to the identification of Angie Dodge’s across-the-street neighbor, Brian Leigh Dripps, who admitted he committed the crime, acted alone, and had never met Christopher Tapp.
A related news report by Local News 8 ABC reported that Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson said genetic investigation led to someone in the Dripps family tree. Utilizing crime scene DNA, a genealogist identified three people in the Dripps family related to the suspect on a genealogy website. Police surveillance enabled retrieval and analysis of a discarded cigarette butt to confirm the DNA match with Brian Dripps. He has been charged with the crime.
Expanded use of DNA in genetic analysis resulting in the identification of the perpetrator is noteworthy in this tragic wrongful conviction case. Additionally, Tapp had agreed in 2017 to a deal with prosecutors in which he would be released from prison on time served with the rape charge dropped, but with the onerous murder conviction remaining on his record. On Wednesday along with Tapp’s expected exoneration, this later travesty of justice will also be rectified.
The Idaho Innocence Project is to be commended for pursuing justice in this case for a decade.
A record 1,639 years were lost in prison by those wrongly convicted and exonerated in 2018, according to “Exonerations in 2018,” the annual report of The National Registry of Exonerations (NRE). The 151 persons exonerated in 2018 spent an average of 10.9 years wrongly incarcerated before exoneration. The report highlights milestones, trends, and the year’s specific exoneration takeaways.
For example, in September 2018 the total number of years lost by exonerees exceeded the milestone of 20,000. As of today, that number is 21,095 lost years for the 2,418 persons known to have been exonerated since 1989.
One highlight of 2018 was an extraordinary 31 defendants exonerated as a result of the scandal in Chicago stemming from an era of police corruption led by Sergeant Ronald Watts in which defendants were framed by police on drug and weapons charges. Reinvestigation of these cases — 30 of which were drug crimes — prompted the exonerations.
The Registry notes contributors to wrongful conviction in each case of exoneration. The 31 Chicago cases were included in at least 107 cases involving official misconduct, a Continue reading
Posted in Compensation/Exoneree compensation, Conviction Integrity Units, Exonerations, Eyewitness identification, False confessions, Police conduct (good and bad), Post-conviction relief, Prosecutorial conduct (good and bad), Reforming/Improving the system, Scholarship, wrongful conviction
Tagged The National Registry of Exonerations
“Six people were convicted of a murder they didn’t even remember. Now a county owes them $28 million.”
Six people convicted of brutally raping and killing an elderly woman, but none of them had any memory of the crime . . . because they were innocent.
And if that’s not bad enough, here’s the really scary part – the police actually convinced three of them that they were guilty!
See the story from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/03/06/six-people-were-convicted-murder-they-didnt-even-remember-now-county-owes-them-million/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.51ac6b22a0a1
The National Registry of Exoneration has reported 139 exonerations — cases in which convictions were officially vacated as a result of new evidence of innocence — in 2017. A significant finding in the Annual Report (here) is that in 84 of these cases, misconduct by police, prosecutors, or other government officials factored in the wrongful conviction, an all-time record for official misconduct as a contributor to wrongful convictions later vacated through exoneration. But there was also encouraging evidence of increasing activism in achieving exonerations by prosecutorial offices through the work of Conviction Integrity Units (CIUs).
The annual report provides a detailed analysis of exonerations in 2017. Perjury or false accusation factored in a record 87 cases, 62 percent. Another record 29 or 20 percent of exonerations involved a false confession. And mistaken eyewitness identification impacted a record 37 cases, 26 percent.
Fifty-one defendants were exonerated of homicide, twenty-nine of sex crimes, eighteen of other violent crimes, forty-one of non-violent crimes such as fraud, Continue reading
Posted in Commissions/Innocence Commissions/Governmental Case Review Agencies, Conviction Integrity Units, Editorials/Opinion, Exonerations, Eyewitness identification, False confessions, Police conduct (good and bad), Post-conviction relief, Prosecutorial conduct (good and bad), Reforming/Improving the system, wrongful conviction
Tagged National Registry of Exonerations
Words matter: A one-word change of “could” to “would” in Virginia’s writ of actual innocence law enacted in 2013 was cited in the Virginia Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion last week that vacated the 40-year-old rape conviction of Roy L. Watford III. 58, of Chesapeake. The state high court ruled no jury “would” have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the light of new evidence.
The language prior to the 2013 change was “could” have found him guilty…
“Writing the unanimous opinion last Thursday, Justice Cleo E. Powell noted that the burden is still a heavy one for someone trying to win a writ of actual innocence.
But, Powell added that while the “could” standard required proof of innocence beyond any reasonable doubt, the “would” standard requires the court to consider if the new evidence, versus evidence of guilt, establishes such a high probability of acquittal that no rational person would have found guilt.”
Marissa Bluestone of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project discusses how proving innocence post-conviction is so much larger burden than a prosecutor proving guilt at trial. True words never spoken. Read or listen here…
We’ve reported about Jack McCullough on this blog several times previously. See here, here, here, and here.
Prior to having his conviction overturned and being exonerated, this case was touted as the “oldest cold case ever solved.”
It will be interesting to see where this suit goes, since prosecutors are supposed to have absolute immunity to civil suit for actions taken while pursuing their duties as prosecutor. They can, however, be held responsible for criminal actions.
See the CNN story here.
Arizona’s justice system is truly something to behold. After all, it’s the home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And get this – Arizona’s Attorney General and Maricopa County’s Attorney have publicly stated that there are “no” wrongful convictions and “no” Brady violations in Arizona. Really?! Arizon Bradypdf
But here’s one for the books. Arizona actually has a law that says anyone who knowingly and intentionally touches a child’s genitals is guilty of child molestation – without a requirement of sexual intent. So anyone who changes a child’s diaper or bathes a child can be charged with child molestation. All it takes is a vindictive spouse or partner, or even just a casual witness (eg: changing a baby’s diaper in a public restroom) to make a charge. And as you certainly would guess, numerous innocent parents and caregivers have been ensnared by this law.
When the Arizona legislature wrote and passed the law, they specifically removed the requirement for sexual intent. The governor signed it, and the Arizona Supreme Court upheld it.
Recently Federal District Judge Neil V. Wake, in a testy opinion, ruled the law unconstitutional. See that ruling here. Thank goodness sanity has prevailed. Hopefully this will eventually lead to relief for all those wrongfully imprisoned by this bogus statute.
Last week Judge Wake also overturned the conviction of Stephen May, a school teacher and swim instructor, who was convicted largely based upon this law’s definition of child molestation. See the article by Jacob Sullum on Reason.com here.
See the story by Mark Joseph Stern writing for Slate here.
Posted in Compensation/Exoneree compensation, Post-conviction relief, Reforming/Improving the system, Uncategorized, wrongful conviction
Tagged compensation, Criminal Justice Reform, FOIA, Freedom of Information Act, Keith Allen Harward, Mary Elizabeth Morgan, Nolan Klein, official misconduct, Ralph Armstrong, Robert Ferguson, The marshall project, wrongful conviction
Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, the former Green Beret surgeon who was first cleared in the murders of his pregnant wife and two daughters and then convicted in 1970, will have what may be his final chance at overturning his conviction after spending the past 36 years in prison for a crime that many experts now believe he did not commit. Oral arguments before a federal appeals court will commence on January 26. The crime took place prior to the use of DNA analysis and new DNA evidence and a lot of other evidence, including evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, flawed forensic testimony, and botched crime scene analysis, provides powerful support for his story that intruders killed his family in what was in some ways similar to the “Manson family” murders in that same era. People Magazine investigative reports will culminate in its major cover story, available on newsstands on Friday, January 20. Here is a link to the People Magazine digital story today that precedes the cover story:
Former Green Beret Surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald Says There’s Evidence He Didn’t Kill His Family: ‘I Am Innocent’
Posted in Compensation/Exoneree compensation, Exonerations, Post-conviction relief, Uncategorized, wrongful conviction, Wrongfully Convicted Women
Tagged compensation, compensation bill, Kentucky Innocence Project, Raymond Lee Jennings, Tim Cole, Tim Cole Commission, William Carini, William Virgil, wrongful conviction
The year 2016 will go down as a good one for Freddie Peacock. But because it was so long in coming, it surely must be bittersweet. His story illustrates the slow pace and enormous hurdles in correcting criminal justice miscarriages post-conviction. It also calls on our individual and national conscience to make 2017 the year responsible citizens send the message loud and clear to all public and criminal justice professionals that this nation must replace the mantra of “tough on crime” with “smart on crime.” In the Peacock case we learn many lessons about wrongful conviction rarely delivered so clearly by a federal judge.
In August 2016 U.S. District Judge Michael Telesca awarded Freddie Peacock nearly $6.2 million long after Peacock’s conviction of and imprisonment for a 1976 Rochester (NY) rape he didn’t commit. Peacock had sued the city of Rochester and Rochester police. Judge Telesca’s decisions in May (here) enabling Peacock to pursue civil damages and in August (here) determining his damages are instructional for those who believe wrongful convictions are the inevitable rare result of innocent human error. Continue reading
Posted in Compensation/Exoneree compensation, Conviction Integrity Units, Editorials/Opinion, Exonerations, forensic science, Junk science, New Evidence, Police conduct (good and bad), Post-conviction relief, Prosecutorial conduct (good and bad), Reforming/Improving the system, Uncategorized, wrongful conviction
Tagged compensation, Conviction Integrity Unit, DNA testing, forensic science, wrongful conviction
Posted in Exonerations, Eyewitness identification, New Evidence, Post-conviction relief, Uncategorized
Tagged Brendan Dassey, capital punishment, compensation, Conviction Integrity Unit, eyewitness identification, eyewitness reliability, Making a Murderer, Mike Hansen, Richard Rosario
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno was remembered for many things after her death this week. But one of her most important accomplishments was greatly overlooked — how she fostered the innocence movement. Defense attorney James M. Doyle explains how in a column here.