Today, Governor Brad Little signed the “Wrongful Conviction Act” into law, providing state compensation for the wrongfully convicted in Idaho. This makes Idaho the 36th state to adopt a wrongful conviction compensation law.
The ceremony took place at the Bonneville County Courthouse in Idaho Falls, the hometown of Christopher Tapp, who spent 20 years wrongfully imprisoned until his exoneration in 2019. Mr. Tapp was exonerated from murder charges based on new DNA evidence that identified the real perpetrator many years after Mr. Tapp was coerced into falsely confessing to the crime. He was convicted despite no physical evidence connecting him to the crime.
“This law will give wrongfully convicted people assistance to re-start their lives and to help begin the process of moving on from the nightmare we have endured and continue to experience,” said Christopher Tapp. “I’m grateful knowing that in the future when someone is exonerated this legislation will be in place to help them when they need it the most.”
Alongside fellow Idahoan exoneree Charles Fain, Mr. Tapp has been a strong advocate for this legislation, working with the Innocence Project and the Idaho Innocence Project to pass this bill into law.
BREAKING: Idaho just became the 36th state to compensate the wrongfully convicted!
— The Innocence Project (@innocence) March 5, 2021
The new law, which was sponsored by Senator Doug Ricks and Representative Barbara Ehardt, includes a fixed sum of $62,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment or $75,000 for each year wrongfully served on death row. The average amount offered nationally through state compensation laws is $68,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment. In addition to Washington D.C., 18 states offer $50,000 or more for each year of wrongful incarceration with many laws providing additional compensation for years served on death row or spent under post-release supervision.
Fight for compensation in Oregon.
Idaho’s new law also compensates $25,000 per year wrongfully spent time on the sex offender registry or under post-release supervision. All compensation claims will be processed by the courts.
For Idaho exonerees like Mr. Fain and Mr. Tapp, the punishment of wrongful conviction continues even after their innocence has been confirmed and they’ve been released from prison. Without compensation, they were left without support for basic needs like housing, transportation, health services or insurance. Exonerees are often also left with criminal records that are rarely cleared despite innocence. Compensation helps exonerees rebuild the lives they lost and acknowledges the unique horrors of wrongful conviction they survived.