Juror in murder trial of former police officer speaks out

Posted at 10:40 AM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 23:30:36-04

"It was probably the most emotional and scary and hardest thing I've ever done."

A juror in the recent murder trial of former Portsmouth police officer Stephen Rankin is speaking out.

"It was very intense. There were some very heated discussions in there...very heated discussions."

jurorThe juror, who doesn't want her name used, says after the first full day of deliberations, jurors agreed the evidence didn't support a first or second degree murder conviction. The only possible charges left were voluntary manslaughter or not guilty.

"We took a quick vote and there were, let's see, three not guilties and one undecided at this point."

That left eight jurors pushing for guilty of manslaughter for Stephen Rankin. The deliberations continued well into a second day.

Complete coverage: Stephen Rankin murder trial

"There were some discussions about it being hung jury and if you feel okay when you leave here at the end of the day and you can sleep with yourself, that's fine."

When News 3's Kurt Williams asked the juror how she interpreted that discussion, she said, "Basically, you need to side with us because we can't leave this with a hung jury."

As the second day wore on, she became just one of two remaining jurors still pushing for not guilty.

"I was getting some pretty mean looks from people. It felt very hostile to me."

She eventually changed her mind. "It was me and somebody else and I don't know if he switched because I switched. I don't know. He was kinda looking at me and I switched and I said 'why?' and then when we took a final vote, everybody's hands went up for manslaughter."

So, what changed her mind?

"It's hard to explain and, basically, I reread a lot of what the witnesses said. A lot of them were saying things like 'The guy was wailing on the officer. He was punching him. He knocked his sunglasses off.' But the key thing that turned me was that Rankin didn't remember being hit."  And that raised questions in her mind, "Because wouldn't you remember someone punching you?" Leading her to believe, "That maybe there was enough space, maybe there was enough time," for Rankin to use his pepper spray, instead of using his gun.

But after making the decision to switch to guilty, she was still troubled.

"I thought my heart was going to explode, because I was so nervous. I guess internally I didn't feel it was the right thing. I should've followed my gut I should've followed my heart."

There would soon be more conflict with the jurors, this time over sentencing Rankin.

"As soon as we came back after the verdict, we went back into the jury room and the first thing out of some people's mouths were, 'He needs to pay--10 years, 10 years.' And I didn't agree with that."

Ten years would've been the maximum sentence.  "After a lot of going back and forth discussing the sentence , I said, 'I would come up to two and a half years but that was all I was willing to go. I wasn't going to go a day more, a minute more. I was prepared to come back the next day and all the next week if we had to. I wasn't going to bend to the pressure. I wasn't there to hurry up and leave. I was there to do my civic duty regardless of how long it took."

The whole experience was draining and at times frightening.

"At the very end after it was all said and done, I was so happy we had a police escort to our car, I really thought if we didn't there could've been, I don't know if it would've been a physical confrontation but it sure would've gotten verbal out there."

She was at the time of the verdict very unhappy and still is. "But when I left that night, I just burst into tears soon as I got in my car and left that parking lot."


"Because I felt terrible. I felt terrible for both sides, like you're, in essence, you're taking two families lives in your hands and making decisions that affects them forever more and that's not something I took lightly at all."

Kurt also asked her about an encounter caught on courthouse surveillance video, which showed a friend of the Chapman family having a brief conversation with a juror in the hallway of the courthouse. The video is one of the things that potentially will be the basis for an appeal filed by the defense.

This juror agrees with the defense,  "I'm glad that they're doing it. I think that should've been jury misconduct and something should happen at that point." She adds a mistrial should have been been granted and hopes an appeal is successful.

Why does she so strongly now regret her guilty vote? She has since learned about Chapman's criminal past, which was ruled inadmissible during the trial. But also ruled inadmissible, was a previous officer-involved shooting years ago involving Rankin, where he fatally shot another man. This juror said that information does not change how she feels about Rankin.

As Kurt was wrapping up this interview, he asked if there was anything she wanted to share about this experience.

"I would like you to ask me if there's anything I want to say to the Rankin family, because I do," she responded. " I want to apologize to Stephen Rankin, because I will forever feel like I did not do right by him or his family and that I hope he forgives me. And that I really hope the appeal is granted and the verdict is reversed because we did them wrong."

When asked what she would want to say to the family of William Chapman, she said, "I am really sorry that they lost their son, he was obviously a misguided individual. "

The juror is now convinced this was a justifiable shooting. "I do, without a doubt. One hundred percent."

There were moments where it seemed the juror was fighting back tears and she said she was, "Just because it was a very emotional thing to be in and there were, there are people looking at it as  black and white thing. There was a white officer who killed a black guy--that's not even what it was. I didn't see it that way. I wasn't brought up to look at people by color."

Below is more from the interview that you didn't see on News 3 at 11 on Thursday.