Saturday, September 8, 2012

Attorney says Idaho Falls police withheld evidence in Angie Dodge case

IDAHO FALLS, ID — Christopher Tapp, the man convicted of raping and killing Idaho Falls resident Angie Dodge on June 13, 1996, says police and prosecutors failed to turn over critical evidence to his defense attorney when they were preparing for Tapp’s trial. Tapp’s public defender, John Thomas, made the claim on Tapp’s behalf in a “Brady petition” filed with the Bonneville County court and prosecutor's office on Wednesday, September 5. The petition calls for Tapp to be freed because the Idaho Falls Police Department failed to share significant findings in its investigation of the crimes. Tapp was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The petition declares that at least 10 times in police reports, IFPD Detective Ken Brown mentions Jeffery Lynn Smith, a former Idaho Falls resident and convicted rapist, as a suspect in Dodge's murder, but the information was never shared with Tapp’s attorney. The Idaho Supreme Court has ruled that the prosecution violates the defendant's rights to due process when evidence is withheld, the petition notes. John Browning, an Idaho Falls resident in 1996, alleges in an affidavit dated August 30, 2012 and filed with the Brady petition that in 1996, he told IFPD detectives that Smith came to the apartment he shared with his now ex wife that was not far from the crime scene. The “visit” took place at about 3 a.m. on June 13. He said in the affidavit that Smith had blood on his clothes, gashes on his face, and a rug burn on his chin. Browning states that Smith made him feel “uncomfortable,” and when he asked Browning if he could use the bathroom to wash up, Browning said he could use an outdoor hose but could not come inside. Browning also said Smith voluntarily explained the injuries and blood but the affidavit does not include any details about what Smith may have said. Browning’s ex wife, Gentri Nicole Morris Goff, gave a similar account in an affidavit dated August 13, 2012, and said the IFPD never interviewed her to see if her story matched her husband’s. She also declared that in July 2012, Tapp’s legal team showed her a 1988 photo of Smith, and she identified him as the man who had come to the apartment in 1996. In 1997, Christopher Tapp was convicted of raping and killing Dodge. After hours of police interviews during which his legal team — including the Idaho Innocence Project — says he was manipulated and coerced, Tapp confessed to the crimes. No hard evidence, such as DNA or eyewitnesses, has connected him to the crimes. Last month in a Dateline NBC feature on the Innocence Project’s push to get Tapp freed, Carol Dodge, Angie’s mom, said she now believes Tapp is innocent. On Thursday after the Brady motion was filed, Carol Dodge said she hopes Judge Tingey “does the right thing” and frees Tapp. Tingey has 30 days to act on the petition. On Friday, Sept. 7, Idaho Falls Police Chief Steve Roos said one of his detectives is looking for any records IFPD may have of contacts with Smith. He also said a DNA sample was taken of Smith and it did not match DNA at the crime scene. In 1992, Bonneville County charged Smith with murdering Leo and Mary Downard of Ammon, but dropped the charges due to lack of evidence. His brother, Lanny, was later charged with the crime and convicted. In 1998, Bonneville County convicted Smith of a 1993 rape. "The average Joe on the street should be concerned that the police are withholding evidence. When police start going awry there has to be checks and balance and that’s what defense attorneys are for,” said Tapp's attorney, public defender John Thomas, in an interview Channel 8 Eyewitness News aired Thursday, Sept. 6. “If there is one witness out there the state is not turning over there may be others out there.” Also on Channel 8, Bonneville County prosecutor Bruce Pickett said, "The fact that Chris Tapp can make multiple filings with the court or submit new evidence goes to the strength of our court system, not to the weakness of it. If there is, other evidence, the court wants to look at it.”

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dateline looks at Angie Dodge's murder case Judge denies new DNA testing to find Angie’s killer By ELIZABETH LADEN IDAHO FALLS — An Idaho Falls mother whose daughter was murdered and raped in 1996 wants the man convicted of the crimes to be freed. Carol Dodge, mother of Angie Dodge, shared her story with the nation on the August 24th NBC-Dateline show, called “The Confession.” The Dateline episode is also available for viewing at In June 1996, Angie was found murdered and raped in her apartment. Christopher Tapp, who was 20 yrs old at that time, and hung near the Snake River in downtown Idaho Falls with many other young people during that summer; admitted to the Idaho Falls Police Department (IFPD) detectives after several hours of interrogation that he willing took part in the murder. In 1998, a jury convicted Tapp of murder and he has spent the past 15 years in prison. However; Angie’s mother Carol, the Idaho Innocence Project, and state’s appellate court attorneys’, Dennis Benjamin and Sara Thomas, now believe Tapp is an innocent man. The NBC-Dateline episode focused on the possibility that Tapp is innocent, and the main reason is that the IFPD has no DNA evidence that puts Tapp at the scene. The DNA samples of semen and hair found at the crime scene belong to a Caucasian individual that has never been brought to justice. NBC-Dateline, Idaho Innocence Project and many others all question the tactics that IFPD Detective Jared Fuhriman (now Idaho Falls mayor) and Det. Ken Brown (now retired) used during the interrogation that resulted in Tapp’s confession. They assert that Tapp was manipulated into admitting he was in Angie’s apartment when she was killed and that he cut Angie, after another man he cannot identify slit her throat and raped her. IFPD detectives claim that when they questioned Tapp, he knew details about the crime that only a person who was there would have known. However, there are many who question the IFPD’s investigative tactics saying the detectives gave Tapp the information. The Dateline episode showed some of the segments of the interrogation that support their assertion. Indeed, Dodge told NBC-Dateline that she believed Tapp was guilty until she spent many hours watching all of Tapp’s interrogation tapes. Dr. Greg Hampikian, a professor at Boise State University, a DNA expert, and director of the Idaho Innocence Project, has requested the DNA profiles in the Angie Dodge murder case so that new DNA technology can be applied that would possibly lead to the true identity of real killer. On August 14, District Judge Joel E. Tingey denied a petition filed by Tapp, asking for YSTR DNA testing. Judge Tingey ruled that Tapp was convicted of Angie’s murder based on Tapp’s statements, not DNA evidence. Tingey ruled that “The identity of Tapp was not an issue at the time of trial but rather the issue was the extent of his involvement in the murder. Tingey stated that the DNA gathered at the crime scene was only relevant to the identity of a yet unknown assailant. DNA evidence of an unknown individual has no effect on Tapp’s conviction.” He noted that Idaho law allows new DNA testing if the result of the test has “the scientific potential to produce new, noncumulative evidence” that would show the petitioner to be innocent. Dr. Hampikian said the Innocence Project is appealing Tingey’s decision. Still, IFPD could request Touch DNA testing that may lead to the actual killer. Although; IFPD Chief Steve Roos says the Dodge case is actively an open case, he has not authorized further DNA testing. Roos has not responded to an Island Park News requesting that he explain why he will not authorize further DNA testing. Dodge told the News that Idaho Falls Prosecuting Attorney Bruce Pickett recently told her Tapp will remain in prison because of his confession and the fact that he was convicted by a jury. Pickett has not responded to a phone call or e-mail asking for his thoughts about Tapp and also about a letter a California attorney sent to Pickett and sent a copy to Island Park news. Dated August 27, the letter, from Gregory Sarno of Castro Valley, blasts Pickett for allegedly making a statement that maybe there would be “closure” for people affected by Angie’s murder now that Tapp’s appeal was denied in July 2012. Sarno’s letter states: “How could there be any closure when the citizens of Bonneville County, the state of Idaho, and the nationwide ‘Dateline’ audience know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Ms. Dodge’s cold-blooded killer has not been identified, charged, or incarcerated? In such context, the false imputation to you of remarks about closure brands you as delusional at best, or as harboring a hidden agenda for condoning egregious miscarriage of justice entailed by Mr. Tapp’s imprisonment for more than a decade. “More effective that retraction, as a means of salvaging your tarnished image, would be a press conference asking Attorney General Wasden to reopen the Tapp matter. Justice delayed is justice denied, true, but belated justice is better than none at all.”