IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - Senator Doug Ricks was elected to the Idaho House of Representatives in 2018. Like many Idahoans, he'd watched the Christopher Tapp case with interest.
"I just felt sad," he said. "I just thought, you know, here's a guy 20 years of his life was taken away from him."
Ricks began work on the Wrongful Conviction Act in 2020 after he'd met with Tapp and the head of the Idaho Innocence Project. They told him while those who had committed crimes received services when they came out of prison, such as housing assistance and employment advice, there were no services for the wrongfully convicted after their release.
"You're essentially just dropped off," he said. "So that's where the idea for the bill, that I sponsored and brought forth, the Wrongful Conviction Act, came about."
Ricks sponsored the bill that would ultimately become law. It had some setbacks. It was vetoed by Governor Brad Little the first year; however, after adjustments were made, Little signed it into law in March of 2021.
Representative Barbara Ehardt of Idaho Falls (District 33A) was happy to co-sponsor the bill in the House after Doug Ricks was elected to the Senate. She had followed the case before she was in the Idaho legislature.
"Early on, when I was still on the [Idaho Falls] city council, I knew Christopher was innocent. And so when Doug brought that legislation, it was a no-brainer for me because, again, it's something that I had believed in far longer than probably any elected official at that point," says Ehardt.
The law has already assisted two other people besides Tapp. In 2021, Charles Fain received compensation after wrongfully serving 18 years in prison. In 2023, Joseph Lacroix was compensated for being wrongfully convicted of failing to register as a sex offender.
When asked what lawmakers can do moving forward without Christopher's voice, Senator Ricks said there are things that can be done. "Make sure we preserve the DNA evidence. Long term, most jurisdictions do that. Thank goodness that was done in Charles Fain's case and also Christopher Tapp's. We can also make sure that we keep recordings of those interrogations."
Both lawmakers spoke about the impact working on the law with Chris had on them.
"It's a tragic tale, and yet there's some good to be found in it, says Ehardt." The good of Christopher Tapp, his heart, the message that he wanted to send, and how he wanted to live his life after such a terrible tragedy."
"When he testified in our committee hearings, there was hardly a dry eye in the whole room, as you could imagine, both in the House and the Senate," Senator Doug Ricks said. "Just very impactful and very strong. I mean, it's one of those things that everybody who's part of this process, it's changed them."
Idaho's Wrongful Conviction Law provides $62,000 per year for wrongful incarceration, and $75,000 per year wrongfully served on death row.