Why have no former Idaho Falls Police Department officers been prosecuted for their conduct leading to the conviction of Christopher Tapp? Why has there not been even an announcement of an investigation?
Why have they not even had the decency to apologize?
This week, Tapp finally filed a federal lawsuit seeking damages for his wrongful conviction and 20 years of false imprisonment. Hopefully, he will be awarded damages proportionate to the harm he suffered. And that harm was unimaginable.
When we send someone to prison, what we experience is that they simply disappear from our society. They experience something different.
According to his lawsuit, Tapp suffered repeated physical assaults in prison because he had been falsely labeled as a sex offender.
He caught tuberculosis, a potentially deadly disease, but wasn’t treated for it until after his release.
At one point he became gravely ill but did not receive treatment until he was so sick he couldn’t move.
He lost many of his teeth due to a lack of dental care.
He suffers from permanent hearing loss because prisons are deafening.
He could not be with his father when he died, nor attend his funeral.
Everything that makes up a life between the ages of 20 and 40 was stolen from him.
That is worse than any burglary. It is worse than armed robbery. It is worse than assault. It is worse than kidnapping. For these crimes, the sentences range between years and life in prison.
All this happened because former IFPD officers fed Tapp specific details of the crime and then claimed in court that he had spontaneously confessed these non-public facts, information only the killer could know. (If you have any doubts, watch the interrogation videos. They leave no question.) This lie is what the Idaho Court of Appeals called the “crux” of the state’s case against Tapp when it refused to release him in 2010.
That lie is perjury at the very least, though prosecution on that charge may be impossible because of the statute of limitations.
But if there was any plan or agreement to lie, or to keep Tapp falsely imprisoned, it’s criminal conspiracy. It’s quite possible that continuing acts in furtherance of that conspiracy were committed in the last five years. That should be a sufficient basis for a criminal investigation, at least.
Put these former officers in an interrogation room. Offer them deals in exchange for evidence against the other suspects, as is standard practice in criminal investigations. Subpoena their text messages and emails. See what they say.
It is good that Tapp has finally filed his lawsuit. It is good that he is likely on his way to getting some compensation, inadequate no matter how high the dollar figure, for the things that were done to him.
But money cannot settle the matter.
These former officers deserve to face justice. If there is no law that allows for prosecution, if the law allows cops to get away with lying under oath to put an innocent kid behind bars — precisely because they put him in prison for so long that the statute of limitations has expired — then the law is manifestly unjust and should be changed.
If none of the former officers are even investigated for these crimes, then our society has two standards of justice: one for the police and one for everyone else. That is a society in which the rule of law does not exist, and gruesome misconduct like that which occurred in the Tapp case will have no deterrent penalty.
We again call on Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, U.S. Attorney Bart Davis and the Civil Rights Division of the FBI to begin a criminal investigation into the officers involved in Tapp’s conviction, as well as a systematic review of the cases they handled to find evidence of further wrongful convictions.
Because, almost certainly, there are others.