Rock Hill man convicted of raping, killing daughter wants new trial

Billy Wayne Cope, the Rock Hill father who confessed to and was later convicted of raping and killing his 12-year-old daughter in 2001, now claims he deserves a new trial because his lawyers and prosecutors did not give him a fair shake.

Both Cope and James Edward Sanders, a convicted sexual predator, were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in a dual 2004 trial of murder, rape, and conspiracy.

Cope confessed three times to the crime but he and his lawyers claimed the confessions were false and coerced by police.

Sanders’ DNA was on Amanda Cope’s body, yet Billy Wayne Cope was inside the home when Amanda Cope was raped and strangled.

Prosecutors have said repeatedly Cope had a fair trial and was convicted because the evidence showed he is guilty and that Cope let Sanders into the house.

Cope, also convicted in 1999 of child neglect, had filed the post-conviction relief lawsuit in June 2015 but now has amended it to include allegations against his lawyers who have spent a dozen years trying to free him, and even the prosecutors. Post-conviction relief lawsuits rarely are successful and are routinely filed by convicted felons as a last chance at reversing convictions.

Cope’s case has already been reviewed at the highest court levels in America. His convictions were narrowly affirmed in 2013 3-2 vote of the S.C. Supreme Court, after other courts also said Cope had a fair trial. The U.S. Supreme Court in late 2014 refused to hear Cope’s case.

In the lawsuit filed at the York County civil court, Cope, 52, and his new batch of lawyers allege that not having an expert to properly explain Cope’s demeanor in showing no grief when finding his daughter raped and dead, as well as his low social intelligence and ease of manipulation that led to the confessions.

The lawsuit makes other claims about how both sides handled a witness and reiterates the main contention Cope and his lawyers have had for 12 years – that he did not get a fair trial because the jury should have heard evidence that Sanders was a career rapist and criminal whom Cope says broke into the house while Cope was asleep.