Bond denied for former Portsmouth officer convicted of manslaughter


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Bond has been denied for a former Portsmouth police officer convicted in the shooting death of a teenager.

Stephen Rankin is currently serving two and a half year prison sentence for a shooting that killed 18-year-old William Chapman II. A jury convicted Rankin for voluntary manslaughter during a trial in August of 2016.

FULL COVERAGE: Stephen Rankin Trial

Rankin came into a Portsmouth court after sitting in prison since October 12, 2016, and as he left court after his motion for bond was denied he mouthed the words “I love you” to his wife Dawn, who outside court told family and friends, “Well, it was worth a try.”

Rankin’s attorney Nicole Belote told reporters outside court, “I have never been involved in a case where a petition for appeal has been granted, and people appeal all the time.”

Rankin’s attorney knew bond was a long shot, but wanted Rankin out for his Court of Appeals hearing next Tuesday appealing that Judge Johnny Morrison erred in barring a Rankin expert witness on police use of force that who would have testified Rankin was clearly within the national standards when he killed William Chapman II.

Belote said the second issue was that Judge Morrison should have ordered a mistrial when a Chapman family friend struck up a conversation with a juror who ended up ruling against Rankin.

Belote says, “We have oral arguments next week, and we will move forward from here. We are headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, he will stay in custody, but on the flip side, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

He gets out in November. That raises an interesting legal quandary. If the Court of Appeals orders that Rankin gets a new trial, and then he wins, what does that mean?

Belote says, “If he is remanded and is found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and he has spent almost 2 1/2 years in the penitentiary, that is concerning.”

Tuesday’s Court of Appeals case will be argued by the state attorney general’s office and not Portsmouth’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales.

She won’t comment on the appeals case, but thinks Judge Morrison was correct about the bond issue, “the appropriate thing is that he does what the jury wanted him to do, and that is, and the court affirmed today what it previously held in October, and that is the defendant should not have bond.”

Judge Johnny Morrison began the hearing by saying he received a letter from a family member, but thought it inappropriate to read it and did not.

We have included that letter here, and it was written by family spokesperson Earl Lewis, and notes how the Chapman family is still suffering. “I wanted to show the truth,” Lewis writes. “The blood and guts. How he looked when he first hit the ground for that first shot to the head, and the second shot to the heart.”

As for Rankin, he will remain at Dillwyn Correctional Center west of Richmond.

“The penitentiary where he is being housed has been a good location for him. It is away from here, so encountering people that he knows and people who act less than stellar around him, we haven’t had that issue,” Belote says.

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