The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to hear the appeal of a Rock Hill father serving life in prison after being convicted of the rape and murder of his daughter in 2001, according to a spokesman for the S.C. Attorney General’s Office.
The appeal of Billy Wayne Cope, 50, was not on a list of cases released Monday that will be heard later this year, said Mark Powell, spokesman for the S.C. Attorney General’s office. The attorney general is opposing Cope’s request for a new trial.
Most cases that are submitted to the high court asking for review are not heard. The court is expected to release more cases it will hear in the next week. A new U.S. Supreme Court term starts in October.
Cope confessed to the crime several times after initially denying involvement. Semen and saliva with the DNA of a second man, James Edward Sanders, was found on the body and clothes of Amanda Cope when she was found dead in November 2001. Sanders and Cope were tried together in 2004, and both were found guilty of murder, rape and conspiracy. Both are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Cope’s lawyers have pushed for a decade for the verdict to be overturned and a new trial granted. Last year, the S.C. Supreme Court in a split 3-2 vote rejected Cope’s appeal. Cope claims to never have met Sanders and alleges that Sanders broke into the house while Cope was sleeping and assaulted and killed Amanda.
Cope and his lawyers say a false positive polygraph test pushed Cope to make false confessions that were coerced by police, and that jurors should have heard testimony about Sanders’ other crimes that happened near the crime scene around the same time, including assault, rape and burglary. Sanders had just been released from prison at the time Amanda Cope was killed.
Prosecutors say there was no evidence of a break-in and argued at trial that Cope let Sanders in and the two together were part of the attack. Police and prosecutors say Cope initially asked if semen was found on Amanda’s body months before it was determined that the DNA was not Cope’s but Sanders.’
Cope confessed to staging the crime scene to make it look like Amanda strangled herself with a blanket. Cope also was charged with sexually assaulting his two younger daughters. Those charges were dismissed with the right to restore after he was found guilty.