PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The highest court in Virginia has denied an appeal from former Portsmouth police officer Stephen Rankin.
The Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed rulings previously made by the Court of Appeals of Virginia. The lower court has twice upheld the verdict in this case — first in June 2017, and again in April 2018.
Rankin was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the 2015 shooting death of 18-year-old William Chapman II. The former officer served two and a half years in prison.
Rankin’s appeal was based on his statement a statement he made after shooting Chapman in which he told someone at the scene, “I need you as a witness. It’s my second one. Don’t leave.”
The statement referred to the fatal shooting of Kirill Denyakin, of Kazakhstan, in 2011. Rankin was never charged in connection to Denyakin’s death.
Rankin’s attorneys have said the jury should not have heard this information during the trial, arguing the Portsmouth Circuit Court erred in admitting the statement as evidence.
The high court affirmed the lower court’s previous ruling finding that any error made in admitting Rankin’s statement was harmless .
A day after the Supreme Court decision, Chapman’s cousin, Earl Lewis Jr., says he feels he has some closure.
“Virginia, I will say, cause I’m from here, I am a native, I am so proud to be here,” said Lewis. “The Rankin situation is closed, now we have to deal with our own community as well, that’s what I want our community to realize.”
Lewis says he feels the judge made a good decision.
“[The best part is] seeing the justice system work for us.”
In a press release Thursday, Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales, who prosecuted the case against Rankin, wrote: ““Today hopefully marks the end of the litigation of this case. We are pleased that the highest court in the Commonwealth of Virginia agrees that the prosecution of this case and the rulings made at trial were appropriate and lawful. We hope that with the end of this case, the healing process can be completed for our victim’s family and the entire community.”