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Judge: Former officer accused of murder will be treated like everyone else

Posted at 7:38 PM, Nov 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-26 05:58:34-05

Portsmouth, Va. - A Portsmouth Judge is concerned that it seems like a former cop is getting special treatment during his first-degree murder trial.

On Wednesday there was a special hearing that focused on how Stephen Rankin comes and goes out of the courtroom.

Portsmouth Judge Johnny Morrison ordered Rankin to stop using a side door in the courtroom.

Rankin’s lawyer Nicole Belote said he was just doing what he was told by the deputies.

The Sheriff's Office, which runs the courthouse, says courthouse security was the only reason for this and understands the judge's concern.

Belote explains why the Sheriff's Office decided to make this decision.

"For Stephen’s safety and security, for the security of the public because this is such a high-profile case and it's an emotional driver, and it’s to maintain order and safety," says Belote.

But the judge said everyone will be treated the same and said it looks bad when the judge and the defendant are coming out of the same side door.

The Sheriff’s Capt. Lee Cherry, Public Information Officer issued the following statement:

Sheriff Watson is aware of Judge Morrison’s ruling as it pertains to the hearing held in his courtroom at 10 a.m. this morning.

Whereas Sheriff Watson understands the concerns that Judge Morrison has pertaining to what may appear to be preferential treatment of Mr. Rankin, courthouse security has been the only reason for the actions taken by his Court Security Deputies.

Sheriff Watson has instructed Captain Joe Lilley to meet with Judge Morrison to facilitate a plan that will satisfy the judge's concerns and at the same time provide the best possible security protocol to protect the participates in this case as well as the general public.

Rankin was indicted for first degree murder in the shooting death of 18-year-old William Chapman. Chapman’s family were happy with the judge's hearing.

Earl Lewis, the family spokesperson said having Rankin go through a side door made him, "Very uncomfortable because it does look bad. That was not professional for that to happen.”

Meanwhile, NewsChannel 3 obtained 109 pages of evidence.

It laid out communication between Rankin and his dispatch center.

In it, Rankin states that he hates his job, that the city sucks, but so does the rest of the world.

There are reports from 16 people interviewed by State Police, including police who responded, construction workers who saw what happened, Walmart employees and other witnesses.

Several describe a fight between Rankin and Chapman. They said Rankin first pulled out his Taser, it was knocked away, then pulled out his gun and that Chapman came at the officer, then two shots were fired.

Records state that Rankin did not appear to have any injuries at the scene.

We also know Walmart security, taser video from Rankin, and the 911 call about shots being fired are all part of evidence.

Defense Attorney James Broccoletti said, "Will be filing more motions with respect to the items we have received and items that we think are missing.”

The next hearing is scheduled for January 5th.

Related: 

Former Portsmouth officer charged for teen’s murder appears in court for hearing

Trial date for former Portsmouth officer charged with murder set for February

Portsmouth Police Officer charged with murder released from jail on bond

Lawyer for Portsmouth Officer who shot and killed teen: ‘He is in a tough situation’

Commonwealth’s Attorney to seek indictment against officer involved in William Chapman shooting death

Timeline of the shooting death of William Chapman