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U.S. Supreme Court

Murder defendant who confessed three times seeks SCOTUS review of innocence claim

Posted May 20, 2014 10:31 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to consider the case of Billy Wayne Cope, who confessed three times to the rape and murder of his 12-year-old daughter.

The confessions, the New York Times reports, “were lurid and sordid and filled with disturbing details” about the crime, but filled with inconsistencies and information which was contradicted by physical evidence. None mentioned an accomplice.

But when DNA results identified a different suspect, prosecutors argued Cope and the other suspect, James Sanders, committed the crime together. Both were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

At issue is whether the trial judge should have allowed evidence that Sanders committed or tried to commit four other sexual assaults near the time and location of the murder of Cope's daughter. Sanders acted alone in the other crimes.

The South Carolina Supreme Court upheld Cope's conviction in a 3-2 decision, ruling that Sanders’ other offenses were too dissimilar to allow them into evidence.

The case is Cope v. South Carolina.

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