I have always been interested in wrongful convictions. There can be no fate worst than being convicted and sentenced for a crime you did not commit. The recent Dateline episode The Mystery in Rock Hill had me so outraged that I still can not shake the impact the story has had on me. If you haven’t seen the episode, do whatever you can to find it online. You can read a transcript of the story here.
In every case of wrongful conviction that I have come across, there are a number of common elements. They are, in no particular order, incompetent police work, prosecutorial misconduct, untruthful or deceptive testimony, and a jury system that assumes all defendants are guilty until proven innocent. This case has all of the above.
In far too many cases of wrongful conviction, the innocent defendant, once accused, has little chance of overcoming a flawed justice system. But this case is even more astounding because DNA evidence led to the real perpetrator of the crime, which should have cleared the defendant, Billy Wayne Cope, immediately. But to free Billy the prosecutor and Rock Hill detectives would have to admit that they were wrong. They would have to admit that they forced a false confession from an innocent man. And they were not willing to do that.
I’ve seen it happen far too many times. Even when convictions are overturned with irrefutable evidence, those who were responsible for making the original error stick by their decision. They are unwilling to accept the fact that they were wrong. They will stick to their claim that the person is guilty and no amount of evidence will convince them otherwise.
How can someone confess to a crime that they did not commit? Here’s how. First you have to get the person to talk to you without the benefit of a lawyer being present. This is easy enough to do with an innocent person. They want to help and don’t feel any need to have a lawyer present. It also helps if that person is poorly educated and unfamiliar with the legal system. You badger the person with accusatory questioning, you threaten the person, you lie to the person stating that you have irrefutable evidence pointing to their guilt, and you offer them a way out. Just confess and we won’t bother you anymore. It happens. It happened in this case.
So the police get their confession. But there are problems with the confession. The details of the confession don’t match the facts of the case. No problem, just give the person the facts and have them give another confession. In this particular case, they had four confessions including a videotaped reenactment. Case closed. But wait. DNA evidence comes back and points to another person. This person is clearly the man who committed the crime. He lived next door. He was involved in a string of similar cases around the same time of the murder. And he has a lengthy record.
You would think that that would be the end of Billy Wayne Cope’s nightmare. But no. He confessed. He didn’t act like someone who had lost a child should have acted. He has to be guilty of something. Let’s charge him with conspiracy to commit murder. Who cares that there is no evidence to support that claim. Who cares that the real perpetrator sends a letter to the prosecutor stating that he has never met Billy Wayne Cope. None of that matters because we don’t make mistakes and we’re going to prove it in court. All we need is a little help from a judge to prevent the defense from providing exculpatory evidence. Maybe we can get a physo nurse to help us by making a deal with her. What ever it takes.
The fact that the appeals court did not grant an appeal is further proof of how difficult it is to reverse a wrongful conviction despite evidence to the contrary.
Billy Wayne Cope is going to gain his freedom. The excellent job done by reporter Keith Morrison and the entire Dateline team is going to persuade an appeal judge with common sense to take another look. It’s going to take time. But sooner or later this case is going to be heard again and all of the evidence is going to be presented. When that happens, Billy Wayne Cope is going gain his freedom and hopefully a financial payout as well. And the prosecutors and detectives who were unwilling to admit that they were wrong, will continue to stick by their story. But they will pay. It’s called karma. You put an innocent man in jail. You separated a father from his children. And you did this simply because you couldn’t stand up and say we blew it.
I found a link where you can watch the episode. I also spent some time going through a number of online comments. The overwhelming majority agree that Billy was wrongfully convicted, but a handful of people are willing to ignore the truth because of the family’s lifestyle and previous problems that they had.
If you watch the episode, and I hope you will, there are two things that stood out that made me think twice about this case. One was how his children address him as sir. That seemed odd. The other was when he was on the wittness stand and he displays another side of his personality when he talks about his hate for the man who comitted the crime. I’m sure that didn’t help his case. It didn’t change my mind about his innocence, but I think it shows that this was a balanced report.
Here’s the link: The Mystery on Rock Hill
Regardless, whether you believe him to be innocent or guilty.Mr.Cope deserves to have a fair hearing.Justice is suppose to be blind… Innocent until proven guilty.Not the other way around!
Joy DeVercelly says
This went beyond a miscarriage of justice. This was criminal. I spent yeaars working in the criminal justice system and this makes me ashamed to be part of the system I believed in so strongly. Prosecutors and police both should have been arrested. There is no such thing as innocent until proven guilty. It is all about mind set..of the police and prosecutors. I’m seeing this over and over. It is very scary. It could happen to anyone.
Evil. Its pure evil. I want to know what ever happened with the sick fucks that allowed and actually pushed for this poor man’s destruction. They need to be held accountable.
Mada Benoit says
From what I was able to read online at the Dateline site I think that we are becoming a communistic state. Innocent people are in prison while there are murders, rapists and terrorists out on our streets. Another thing is that dateline has taken the 2 hours episode off of its website. The above link does NOT have anything but a small blurb that I am assuming NBC used as a commercial and Cope’s supposed confession. I have tried numerous sites and still and unable to view this story.
kristy kozma says
i dont think its odd at all that his children called him Sir, in fact in the south, it is sooo coomon, my little sister calls her father sir, she even calls me Ma’am! And she’s my sister! so here, it is a sign of respect. As far as the anger taht was eating him, can anyone of us say that we would not hold anger or even hate in our heart for a person that violated our child and took their life??? The fact that he has stood by the Lord, and did eventually allow forgiveness into his heart for this man, is more than admirable, I do not know if I personally could ever reach that point, and I pray that i never have to find out.
This poor man is a modern day Job, and I’m sure that his Christian faith has caused him to read that particular book of the Bible and come to the same conclusion. Hopefully the outcome to Mr. Cope’s trials will be that of his biblical counterpart and God will bless him far beyond what He allowed to be taken from this wrongly convicted man.
I hope that whole police department from the judge down to the jury get the karma they deserve. The evidence proved he was innocent but nobody seemed to care. It’s a damn shame how they got away with it..
Case after case after case prove coerced confessions happen all the time. Many people can be broken down after being grilled for hours. The evidence against Mr. Cope is utterly pathetic. The only thing that made it even a remotely possible is the letter to Amy, which the defense countered with a plausible excuse. The letter to Amy was the only real evidence they had against him. But in light of everything else, was not enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Not even close.
I really wish that people would do more independent research before posting their ignorant , unread and arm chair detective opinions on blogs. You are watching a 3 year long case cut down to 42 minutes and 11 seconds on prime tv television. A show that mostly covers dramatic cases that are intended to shock and thrill you. I am saddened that so many people in this country as so quick to believe a single source, be it a news magazine show such as Dateline, CNN, wikipedia, etc. Go to billwaynecope.com It’s owned and operated by the Prosecutor from Cope’s case and he lays out every single piece of his case AS WELL AS the Defense’s. The largest, most important single piece of evidence that Dateline did NOT report was Dr. Maynard’s testimony (which court testimony you can read on that site) that her vagina and anus had every indication that penetration was chronic. Meaning, this was not the first time Amanda Cope had been molested. THIS was what influenced the jury, THIS was what the jury told Dateline (not reported, of course) and THIS is the reason Cope is behind bars today. READ IT, IT’S A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD.
Also, in Cope’s confessions, he confessed to using a dildo owned by him, on her. There are crime scene photo of the dildo, which he admitted to trying to dispose of shortly before calling police.
I was not an Investigator on this case but I have 10 years behind me of investigating violent crimes. Cope was on the computer when police and medics arrived. Cope called 911 and told them “Ma’am, she’s cold as a cucumber” upon finding his daughter strangled to death in her bed. While he waited for police, his two daughters cried on the couch and he sat down at the computer.
Watch the video of him with police returning to the house and reenacting the crime. It’s on the site. He describes sodomizing her, strangling her and disposing of the evidence.
I know it’s hard for some people to accept that false confessions happen. But this is a classic case of a false confession. Just do a search on this site for false confessions and you will find similar cases. How can anyone claim that there was some kind of conspiracy when there is absolutely no evidence that the two men even knew each other?
An innocent man is in prison and the people who put him there will never admit their mistake.
I don’t care if this show was 42 minutes of a 3 year long case, you are ignorant and blind if you believe this man is guilty. You talk of how he confessed of doing all kinds of things to his daughter but forget to mention that he confessed to a lot of things that were coerced by the police department. I’d like to dig into financial information and see how much money the prosecution handed out to keep the guilty verdict. I’d be afraid to live in Rock Hill. Not because of the crime but because of the system that’s supposed to keep citizens safe.
What’s wrong with a child calling a parent sir? Society wants to know why children have little respect and it starts at home. I know several families where the children call their parents and even other adults Sir or Ma’am. That’s called respect and it’s amazing how close these families are. I’ve been involved in a situation where the legal system was corrupt and I know that people will go to any length to keep from admitting that they were wrong or lying. And as for anyone thinking that Cope’s words were hateful and harsh against the man who took his daughter’s life, what’s wrong with you?! If DNA proved someone raped and murdered my daughter and kept me behind bars while my spouse passed away, I would say a lot more hateful and harsh things Cope said on the stand. I commend him for keeping his cool. Cope last his child and had no time to grieve over that loss.
No one knows what they would do in Cope’s shoes. For him to deny killing his daughter over 600 times, he had to have been interrogated beyond the breaking point. It’s probably similar to Chinese water torture. God obviously is using Cope behind bars and Cope and I pray that when the truth sets him free that he will not seek revenge but pray for those who have wronged him. After all, God’s children nailed Jesus to the Cross and murdered Him and we are shown mercy and forgiveness.
p.s. balanced report my ass.
p.p.s While I don’t necessarily agree with everything you write, your website is quite interesting. I wish more blogs were as insightful as yours.
Doris Humphrey says
It’s pretty sad that the justice system is not trying to find people innocent but coercing their guilt I have a brother who has been incarcerated for 40 something years basically for a signed confession that he told the judge that the police beat him and made him sign the Jude simply said “my policemen would not do anything like that.
So if you are poor and uneducated
sandi hamilton says
This whole case is beyond criminal. Both parents are dead. The two surviving daughters were turned against their father. I hope that Biily’s lawyers didnt drop their pursuit for justice after he passed because every one of the detectives, prosecutors and the supposed friend the nurse(amy simmmons) who forged that letter should all be in jail. The two daughters should sue the hell out of south carolina and the town of rock hill. billy’s name should be cleared. This whole case from start to finish should outrage everyone, it makes my blood boil and makes me question not just our court system but the prosecutors and police officers that swear to uphold and enforce the laws. Every single one of these people should be fired . When you falsify evidence, lie,fabricate, hide evidence coerce people and everything else they did they should all be prosecuted and jailed.I hope the judge overseeing this trial also was fired. To know that this man sat in prison for as long as he did and then died in prison is unthinkable. How do any of the people involved in putting him in prison can even sleep at night is beyond me. I am so disgusted with the way this went down. It disturbs me to no end. Even though he has passed away his name needs to be cleared this wrong needs to be corrected and Kevin Brackett should be ashamed of himself how dare he say what he said regarding the passing of billy cope. You Mr. Brackett manipulated evidence and manipulated a greiving trusting gullable man this man did not fail the polygraph how dare you! how do you live with yourself.? How do yousleep at night?
Brackett Is a Shithead says
I don’t know if Cope was guilty or not (I just started looking into the case after seeing the Dateline ep) — BUT, the jackoff that made the billywaynecope website is the same clown who thinks a grand jury can legitimately evaluate 904 separate indictments and refer them forward to court — and they evaluated all of them in ONE DAY. He justifies it by saying “but but but they worked super hard, from 10 AM until after 6 PM! They were so hard working, so dedicated! I see nothing wrong with this. Fuck justice, I do what I want!!!”
Yes, his office sent 904 indictments to the grand jury, and he wants you to believe that a grand jury could possibly evaluate and consider all 904 of them in one day, and not toss a single one of them. That just reeks of corruption, and no solicitor interested in justice would feel morally correct in accepting that grand jury’s decisions. But Brackett did, and he even defended them, and himself.
Then, when the judge properly tossed out the grand jury’s impossible results, Brackett whined like the scumbag bitch he is.
So, consider that when you consider anything Brackett says about Cope. Cope may have been as guilty as anyone ever, but when guys like Brackett are involved in the prosecution, there are serious doubts that justice actually triumphed. Brackett is likely not about true justice, he’s about convicting as many people as he can, regardless of innocence. He proved that when he claimed that a grand jury could adequately, fairly, and honestly review 904 indictments in one day.
Then he whined when the judge tossed all 904 charges.
C. P. Wood says
That Brackett claims, with a straight face, that a grand jury can read, mentally process, discuss, evaluate thoroughly, understand completely, and come to an intelligent decision to then confidently send forth to the court, 904 indictments, in one day, working from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., probably taking an hour for lunch, tells me everything I need to know about his character. You know, that thing that is sometimes defined as doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. What a creep ! And the judge has got to be his buddy, because he wasn’t any better. I don’t know if Billy Wayne Cope EVER abused his daughter, but I do feel very confident in saying that he did not, on the night she was killed, and that he didn’t kill her. And he didn’t get anything close to a fair trial. Everyone responsible for convicting him, including the judge, should be ashamed of themselves. I don’t know what to call it, other than a complete and total travesty. Despicable.