In an unanticipated move yesterday, Governor Little vetoed my House Bill 384a – the Idaho Wrongful Conviction Act. This bill passed both the House and the Senate with only one no vote. I am shocked and disappointed the Governor took this action based on the overwhelming support from legislators and the general public.
Because of the Governor’s veto, Idaho will remain on the list of 15 states that does not compensate an innocent man or woman who was forced to go to jail for a crime they did not commit. Chris Tapp, after 20 years in jail and Charles Fain, after 18 years, will have to wait at least one more year to receive any restitution due to the governor’s action.
The bill language was carefully scrutinized and vetted by representatives of the courts, prosecuting attorney’s organization and the Attorney General’s office. We had all of these stakeholders in the same room going through the bill line by line checking every word and comma placement. We had a good bill and at no time did we have any push back from the governor’s staff as we kept them in the loop.
In the governor’s letter accompanying the veto, he said the “bill has an admirable objective but establishes a flawed process to recompense the wrongfully convicted.”
I disagree! We worked through the process extensively, used the language from the stakeholders, and had input from the Idaho Innocence Project and national Innocence Project as well. We even amended the bill in the Senate to address any concerns the stakeholders had from the original bill.
We will bring the same bill back next session and prepare to override a veto if necessary.
In an 1895 case, the U.S. Supreme Court stated, “it is better to let the crime of a guilty person go unpunished than to condemn the innocent.”
And in Idaho, the innocent who went to jail wrongfully, remain uncompensated.