Man who raped, killed daughter appeals life sentence
November 9, 2012 at 11:41 AM EST - Updated June 28 at 12:17 PM
ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV)
A Rock Hill man sentenced to life in prison for raping and killing his 12-year-old daughter had his appeal argued before the SC Supreme Court Tuesday.
Billy Wayne Cope killed his daughter, Amanda Renee Cope, in 2001. He was convicted in court and sentenced to life behind bars in 2004.
His neighbor, James Sanders, is also serving a life sentence, without parole, after DNA evidence connected him to the crime. Cope's lawyer, Jim Morton, says that should prove his client did not kill his daughter.
Morton say Sanders DNA should prove he is the killer.
"When it turned out that semen on his daughter's leg," Morton said. "And saliva on her bitten right breast matched a man that had invaded other women's home in the same area."
Now Cope's lawyers are looking to get the case thrown out of court, or get a new trial. They will present the case before the SC Supreme Court on Tuesday morning, November 13, at 10 a.m.
"I've got peace in my heart," Cope's sister Susie Archie said. "And the prayers that we prayed, I feel confidant."
The person who prosecuted Cope the first time feels confidant too.
"We are confident that the jury reached the right verdict and that justice was done in this case," 16th Circuit Solicitor, Kevin Brackett, told WBTV on Friday.
The new hearing for the case comes 11 years after Amanda was found raped and strangled.
Her father, Billy Wayne Cope, says he confessed to the crime only after Morton says police terrorized his client.
"After two days of no sleep and constant pressure," Morton said. "He told them what they wanted to hear because they wouldn't take no for an answer."
In a handwritten confession that Cope gave to investigators, he said he was having a bad dream when he "snapped and I jumped on the bed and straddled her." That's when he confessed to hitting her in the head and choking her.
His confession letter continued to say that he didn't realize it was his daughter until he had sodomized her with a broom stick and fell back into his senses.
Morton told the justices Tuesday that the jury made its decision without all the facts. The jury, he said, did not know that Sanders had a history of sexually assaulting females and that he and Cope did not know one another.
The case has gained nationwide attention over the past several years.
In July 2010, Dateline NBC aired a two-hour special called "The Mystery in Rock Hill," which featured evidence suggesting Cope was wrongly convicted of the crime.
Brackett didn't pull any punches describing his feelings after the story aired on televisions across the nation.
"Dateline's 'expose' was no expose at all," Brackett told WBTV in 2010. "Instead, it's a blatant, slanted, one-sided hit piece designed to make us look bad."
Brackett then launched an online campaign which disputes several of the facts and claims presented in the national show's special.
But supporters of Cope questioned why Brackett refused interviews with Dateline crews.
"Mr. Brackett had every opportunity to speak to Dateline," says Jim Morton, an attorney for Billy Wayne Cope told WBTV in 2010. "It was no secret Dateline was covering this case."
Brackett said the Assistant Attorney General advised against doing the interview while the appeal was going on. Cope's attorneys say they weren't allowed to present crucial evidence proving the father's innocence.
Supporters of Cope who claim he was wrongly convicted have launched a website of their own. The headline on the website reads "Free Billy Wayne Cope."
Billy Wayne Cope's other two children were adopted by a relative.
In the meantime his sister is sticking by her brother.
"He did not kill his daughter," the sister said. "He is innocent."