Court of Appeals unanimously affirms manslaughter conviction of former Portsmouth officer

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The Virginia Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the voluntary manslaughter conviction of former Portsmouth Police Officer Stephen Rankin.

“We are disappointed but have a long way to go,” said Nicole Belote, Rankin’s attorney.

Stephen D. Rankin

Rankin shot and killed 18-year-old William Chapman II during an incident that occurred around 7:35 a.m. on April 22, 2015 in the parking lot of the Walmart located at 1098 Frederick Blvd. in Portsmouth.

In August 2015, the Commonwealth’s Attorney announced that they had completed their investigation into the shooting death of Chapman and announced that officials were seeking an indictment against Rankin.

On September 3, 2015 Rankin was indicted on charges of first degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony by a grand jury. He was then fired by the city.

A jury found Rankin guilty of voluntary manslaughter in August 2016. He was sentenced to serve 2.5 years in prison in October 2016.

Since then, attorneys have been working to appeal his conviction.

During that process, the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office submitted a brief opposing the petition for appeal, arguing that there were no legal errors in the trial.

The Virginia Office of the Attorney General also filed a brief echoing that position.

The Virginia Court of Appeals adopted and agreed with the position of both offices.

Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales released the following statement:

“Today the Court of Appeals agreed that the conviction of Stephen Rankin was proper in all respects, and we are thankful for this ruling. Our team of attorneys sought to uphold the law and seek justice, and we are glad to learn that the Court of Appeals agrees that we did so appropriately.
This ruling is the culmination of many months of litigation, and it encourages us to continue to seek justice for all victims of violent crime, but especially those whose ability to speak for themselves has been taken away too soon.” 

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