Idaho City to Pay $11.7 Million to Man Wrongfully Convicted in 1996 Killing

NSB today announced that it has won an $11.7 million settlement on behalf of Christopher Tapp, who was psychologically coerced by police into confessing to a 1996 murder he did not commit. The settlement also provides that the City of Idaho Falls discuss possible reforms to its interrogation techniques with leading experts in the field. Shortly before the settlement was announced, Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper issued a letter apologizing to Mr. Tapp for the city’s role in his conviction and 20 years of incarceration, saying she hoped that the settlement and apology would help bring closure, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, Mr. Tapp was cleared in 2019 of the murder of Angie Dodge after DNA evidence from the crime scene was matched—using genetic genealogy—to the true perpetrator, Brian Dripps. Dripps was caught and pled guilty to the crime in 2021. “Chris Tapp’s wrongful conviction never should have happened; DNA cleared him over 20 years ago,” Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann, a partner at NSB, told “We hope this settlement is a wake-up call to the many police departments still using the same practices of lying, deception, and coercion as Idaho Falls did — and that it still needs to reform — so that other innocents don’t suffer like Chris Tapp has.”

As detailed in NSB’s complaint, filed in 2020, Mr. Tapp was wrongfully convicted after Idaho Falls police used a series of coercive interrogations and sham polygraphs to secure a false confession him. Even though early DNA evidence demonstrated that Mr. Tapp was not the source of the DNA the perpetrator left at the scene, Idaho Falls police officers nonetheless subjected Mr. Tapp to around 60 hours of coercive interrogation and 7 sham polygraphs, repeatedly threatened him with execution, and fed him non-public details about the crime that only the real perpetrator would know, and then falsely reported that Mr. Tapp had volunteered those details. At the time, Mr. Tapp was only 20 years old. Idaho Falls officers also coerced a vulnerable teenage girl into falsely reporting that she heard Mr. Tapp confess to the crime—a statement she later truthfully recanted. This police misconduct reached even the highest levels of the Idaho Falls Police Department, including the Chief of Police who was present during some of the interrogation. One of the key officers, Jared Fuhriman, later went on serve two terms as the Mayor of Idaho Falls.

The case is Tapp v. City of Idaho Falls, No. 4:20-cv-00476 (D. Idaho).  Mr. Tapp was represented by NSB partners Peter Neufeld, Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann, and Amelia Green, NSB Counsel Katie McCarthy, NSB Staff Attorney Sona Shah, Johnnie L. Cochran Fellow Grace Paras with Paralegal support provided by Ariel Manning. John Thomas, Esq. also represented Mr. Tapp in this matter.

Learn more:

Read the Associated Press story quoting Tapp about the $11.7 million settlement.

Watch a 48 Hours episode about Tapp’s case.

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