Murder trial for former Portsmouth Police Officer Stephen Rankin will be held in July

Posted at 4:25 PM, Feb 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-23 16:25:28-05

Portsmouth, Va. - The murder trial for former Portsmouth Police Officer Stephen Rankin won’t be held until the end of the summer.

On Tuesday morning, Portsmouth Judge Johnny Morrison heard motions from the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

With his beard grown out and his wife by his side, Rankin sat silently and listened as lawyers made their arguments.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales said she doesn’t want off-duty cops wearing their police uniform during the murder trial.  She said it could have an influence over the jury.  In court on Tuesday she argued previous cases.

The defense argued against the motion and ultimately the judge said he is still thinking about it and hasn’t made a decision yet.  The Judge agreed that it would be time consuming to try and figure out which officers were on and off duty.

James Broccoletti, Rankin’s Attorney said, “I think he expressed his concerns both ways and was thinking out loud from the bench.”

The prosecutor also requested to not allow William Chapman’s alleged theft from Walmart to be brought up during the trial.

Cops were called to Walmart for a report of a theft back in April.

18-year-old Chapman was shot and killed by Rankin.

The defense objects to the prosecutor’s motion saying all events that led up to the shooting are important.

“You can't start the story of the last chapter. The jury has a right to know from the beginning to the end, so they can put everything in context,” said Broccoletti, “You can’t sanitize the events.”

The Commonwealth’s Attorney also requested to the have the trial date pushed back. Morales said there were several witnesses that have scheduling conflicts.  Defense attorneys did not object to her request.

“All councils have multiple commitments, multiple trials, there are witness issues that we need to coordinate.  The number of witnesses that we need to bring in so we have just busy trial schedules,” said Broccoletti

Meanwhile, Chapman’s family spokesperson Earl Lewis said he thinks both sides are hoping to have this over as soon as possible.

“It's about justice.  There's no other way to put it. It’s about justice,” said Lewis.

The trial is now set for July 27, instead of March.