Category Archives: South Carolina

Michael Cope

On July 22nd, 1993, William Hamilton died after a struggle with Michael Cope. Hamilton owned a jewelery shop, had money, and was a mentor in an after school program. But also, he was molesting boys including Michael. Hamilton would give boys marijuana or cocaine. Hamilton would also have Michael and others hide jewelry, claim he was robbed, get insurance money, and then the boys would take him the jewelry back and he would sell it.

Michael had become addicted to drugs, and went to the jewelry shop to see if he could get some. When he went to leave, Hamilton jumped on his back and tried to choke him. Michael saw a knife, grabbed it and stabbed Hamilton. While they were struggling, they fell onto glass case and both got cut. A piece of glass went into a main artery eventually causing Hamilton’s death, from blood loss, after Hamilton chased Michael out of the door.

Michael had a court appointed lawyer that did not defend him. Michael told him every single detail of that day and the time leading up to that day and his lawyer withheld that information. He told Michael to plead guilty and take a deal. He was only 20. He was young and scared and thought his lawyer knew what to do. Michael was sentenced to 20 years to life.

Michael is now aged 44 and has served 24 years in prison for a defending himself from a pedophile. A petition calling for his release has more than a thousand signatures.

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Kimberly Renee Poole

Kimberly Renee Poole was celebrating her third wedding anniversary with her husband Brent Poole, when the couple were robbed on a beach soon before midnight on June 9th, 1998. Brent was shot twice in the head, and died soon after.

Police rapidly focussed on a theory that the shooter was John Boyd Frazier, and Kimberly had conspired with John to have her husband murdered. Kimberly had briefly left her husband and gone to live with John a month earlier, before reconciling with her husband.

Kimberly was subject to extremely coercive Reid interrogation tactics, and after many hours, after being accused of “obstructing justice”, on being told the only way she could keep her two year old child Katie was to agree to the police theory, she made damaging admissions.

The police built their case on

(i) A questionable eyewitness identification from a couple who were paid a substantial amount of money by Brent’s family.

(ii) A witness who saw a car resembling John’s car parked outside the Poole home on three nights before the murder.

(iii) The testimony of alternative suspect Bruce Wolford, who was a friend of John, and a bartender at the Silver Fox where Kimberly worked. Wolford testified that John tried to fight Brent on May 30 in the parking lot of the Silver Fox. Wolford also claimed that he overheard Kimberly telling John of her plans to go to Myrtle Beach with Brent on June 9.

However, eyewitness Chris Hensley who had seen the shooter close-up (ten feet), told police the composite he made didn’t resemble John in any way. Instead, it resembled alternative suspect Bruce Wolford.

Kimberly and John were convicted in separate trials. A juror at Kimberly’s trial has written about how jurors were coerced into reaching a verdict. John’s conviction was overturned, due to him being denied an expert to challenge the eyewitness identification, but he was again convicted after a retrial. Kimberly was sentenced to life without parole.

It has recently been discovered that Wolford was stalking Kimberly, he had installed spyware on the Poole’s computer. Kimberly’s attorney has since been disbarred. A recently filed appeal cites ineffective assistance of counsel, based on several grounds.

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Billy Wayne Cope

DNA proved that a complete stranger, a serial lone wolf sexual predator raped and killed Billy Wayne Cope’s daughter. But a jury convicted Cope even though his coerced confession never named the true perpetrator — James Earl Sanders.

Cope and Sanders never met. And why would they? Cope was an obese, loner, who lived at home in Rock Hill with his wife and three daughters and was active in a local evangelical church. Sanders was a black, recently released criminal from NC who in the span of six weeks attempted to assault or assaulted five women, including Amanda Cope who he also murdered.

The idea sold to this jury — that Cope conspired with Sanders and pimped out his own daughter to him — is so absurd that no right-thinking person could believe it.

But 12 jurors in SC did and two SC courts affirmed their decision. Hopefully, his new post-conviction lawyers can right this wrong before going to federal court.

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On 9th February, Billy died before he could be exonerated.

Alfonso Staton

Alfonso Staton has been serving time for a murder that he did not commit since 1997 in Lee Correctional Institute in Bishopville, SC.

Someone else confessed to the murder, however Alfonso was also charged and convicted for murder under the “hand of one, hand of all” law because of the testimony of someone stating that they saw Alfonso at a party where the victim was supposedly located prior to the murder. This same witness also admitted on the stand that he had been on a drunken binge for a month, blanks out repeatedly and really couldn’t recall a lot of the events of that night.

Alfonso was young when this happened and was advised by his attorney to not testify because it was no proof that he had done anything. With no proof, his statement proclaiming his innocence and a witness accounting for his whereabouts at the time of the murder, you would’ve thought that was enough for Alfonso to freed, however just as many before him, the justice system failed him.

Alfonso has filed for appeals and has been denied; he was recently up for parole in September and hoped for a chance at freedom however he was denied parole. To add insult to heartbreaking injustice, the person that confessed to the murder has served time and has been released while Alfonso is still imprisoned.

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George Stinney Exonerated

A 14-year-old South Carolina boy who was quickly convicted of murder and then executed in 1944 has been posthumously exonerated.

Judge Carmen Tevis Mullen vacated George Stinney, Jr.’s conviction on Wednesday, stating that the boy’s prosecution was marked by “fundamental, Constitutional violations of due process.”

Frances Newton should be next.

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