ROCK HILL — The S.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear the appeal of Billy Wayne Cope, the Rock Hill father convicted in 2004 for the rape and murder of his daughter.
Cope, 49, has been in jail since just after the November 2001 incident where authorities found Amanda Cope, 12, dead in her bed on Rock Hill’s Rich Street. Cope is serving a life sentence but claims that his confessions to the crime that were used against him at trial were false confessions that were coerced by police.
Prosecutors say Cope confessed, is guilty, and should remain in prison for life.
Amanda Cope was raped, sodomized, and strangled.
Both Cope and another man who is a convicted sexual predator and burglar, James Edward Sanders, were convicted of murder, rape, and conspiracy.
Sanders’ DNA was found on Amanda Cope’s clothes and body.
Cope’s lawyers have said for more than a decade that Cope is innocent and never met Sanders. Cope’s lawyers claimed at trial that Sanders broke in the house while Cope was asleep in the house with his children.
Prosecutors have said there was no sign of forced entry and Cope had to have let Sanders in the house.
Cope’s appeal claims the trial jury should have heard the “prior bad acts” committed by Sanders that the 2004 trial judge did not allow, and that the conspiracy was never proven by prosecutors.
The S.C. Court of Appeals initially upheld the convictions against Cope, then later threw out the conspiracy conviction before reversing itself later and upholding the conspiracy.
Cope was also charged with sexually assaulting his two younger daughters but those charges were dismissed with the right to restore after he was sentenced to life in prison.
Cope was convicted twice for child endangerment after authorities found his children living in unsanitary and filthy conditions that included insect problems and buckets of feces and urine. He was also stripped of his parental rights by the Family Court.
The hearing in front of the S.C. Supreme Court is scheduled for 10 a.m. and should last about a half-hour. A decision about whether to order a new trial or reverse any of the convictions could take months.
Check heraldonline.com Tuesday for updates on the hearing.