An American man was exonerated Wednesday for a decades-old murder he did not commit, using evidence based on DNA and a genetic family tree, the first such result using a revolutionary investigative technique.
Christopher Tapp, 43, had served 20 of his 30-year sentence for the 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge.
On Wednesday, a court in the state of Idaho completely overturned his conviction based on evidence found with “genetic genealogy” — the technique used to identify the suspected “Golden State Killer” by making DNA matches with his distant relatives.
“It’s a new life, a new beginning, a new world for me, and I’m just gonna enjoy every day,” Tapp said at the end of the hearing, local media reported.
Tapp’s exoneration came after police arrested another suspect, Brian Dripps, in May. Dripps, who was identified using genetic genealogy, confessed to the crime.
Genetic genealogy first made headlines in April 2018, after it was used to find the alleged “Golden State Killer” in California who is blamed for 12 murders and more than 50 rapes dating back to the mid-1970s.
In that case — as well as about 70 others that have been solved since — DNA found at crime scenes was compared to the databases for genealogy websites.
The websites — widely advertised in the United States — allow users to post DNA test results and then generate a list of people with similar genomes, enabling users to find distant relatives.
The databases also allow police officers to search through people with similar genetic profiles to DNA found at crime scenes. Tracing back through family trees and seeing where the DNA crosses can lead investigators to a suspect.
But Tapp’s case is the first in which genetic genealogy has been used to prove innocence.
“It’s just such an incredible feeling to be a part of clearing an innocent man’s name,” CeCe Moore, the genetic genealogist who worked on the case, said in an interview with ABC.
The case against Tapp began to crumble before investigators started to use genetic genealogy.
In 1998, Tapp was sentenced to 30 years in prison based solely on his confession, which he then retracted.
In 2017, he was freed from prison in a court agreement, but the murder charge was not dropped.
A year later, his defense team obtained the right to test sperm traces found in Angie Dodge’s bedroom. Genetic genealogy led investigators to Brian Dripps.
Dripps, who in 1996 lived just across the street from Dodge, confessed to the crime after officers tested a cigarette butt he had thrown away against the crime scene DNA.
The Idaho Bonneville County prosecutor withdrew the charges against Tapp and filed a motion to exonerate him, which a judge endorsed on Wednesday.
Trump staff sent home early as White House braces for another night of protests
After a third night of unrest in Washington D.C., Mayor Muriel E. Bowser announced another curfew for Monday night, saying, "We’re prepared for multiple days of demonstrations.” The curfew will begin at 7 p.m. Monday and run through Tuesday morning.
According to reports, the White House will be shutting down accordingly, with only the most senior staffers staying on.
"Sources tell me the White House told all staffers who don’t need to be there to leave by 4 pm ET today due to planned protests," CNN's Jake Tapper tweeted. "I’m told by a source that White House senior staff will continue working."
Louisville police chief fired after mayor determines body cameras were off during David McAtee shooting
On Monday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced that the chief of the city's police department has been relieved of duty, effective immediately.
The move comes after the body cameras of Louisville police officers involved in the fatal shooting of David McAtee, a local Black businessman, had not been active.
🚨 Mayor of #Louisville: The body cameras of those involved in the shooting last night that killed David McAtee were NOT active.
LISTEN: Charlamagne Tha God clashes with ‘delusional’ Rush Limbaugh in debate over George Floyd’s killing and white privilege
During an interview with Rush Limbaugh this Monday, Charlamagne Tha God called out the conservative radio host for his white privilege and asked him why he's choosing to speak out on George Floyd's killing while there have been countless examples of police violence against black people.
“I know that you’re going to disagree with me on this — to me this is not America,” Limbaugh said, adding that he thinks the U.S. is the greatest country in the world.
But according to Charlamagne, America is only great for some people.
“I think it’s easy for you to say because you’re a white male and that comes with a different level of privilege,” Charlamagne said. “And I do think America does work but it works for the people it was designed to work for. It doesn’t work for everyone else the way it works for you.”