Former Portsmouth Police officer’s attorneys make 2nd attempt for appeal in manslaughter conviction

Posted at 12:51 PM, Sep 19, 2017

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - The attorneys representing a former Portsmouth Police officer convicted of killing an 18-year-old are continuing to work towards an appeal for their client.

Stephen Rankin was found guilty last year of voluntary manslaughter in the death of William Chapman. Chapman was killed outside of a Portsmouth Walmart in April 2015. Rankin was sentenced to two and half years in the death.

Click here for all of our coverage on Chapman's death and Rankin's trial

On Tuesday, attorneys James Broccoletti and Nicole Belot had 20 minutes to present their reasons why they should be granted an appeal. They made their arguments in front of three appellate judges. Typically attorneys are only given ten minutes, but because of the depths of the issues, Broccoletti says he was allowed the additional time.

Broccoletti focused on four key arguments during his time in front of the judges.

The first point was about the statements heard on the taser video from when Chapman was killed. In the footage you can hear Rankin saying "this is my second one", referring to the first man Rankin shot and killed in 2011. Broccoletti says evidence from the 2011 shooting were excluded by the court so he says this statement shouldn't have been allowed to come in. By allowing this statement to be heard during the trial was prejudicial to the case, according to Broccoletti.

The second point was the denial of him to have an expert testify during the trial. After the hearing, Broccoletti explained that he had requested to have an expert on the "Use of Force Doctrine" testify during the trial. However, the expert was not allowed to testify, one of the reasons was because he had never previously testified in the state of Virginia.

The third reason presented was because of alleged jury tampering. Broccoletti says during the trial there was an inappropriate exchange between a juror and someone close to the Chapman family.

The fourth reason is because the contents in Chapman's bookbag found at the time of his death were not allowed to be mentioned during the trial.

Outside of the courthouse, Broccoletti says these four items drastically affected the outcome of Rankin's trial and are grounds for his appeal to go forward.

Portsmouth Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales was in court for the proceeding. She did not answer any questions after court but did send out the following written statement.

"In its initial order denying Rankin’s appeal, the Court of Appeals agreed with the Commonwealth’s legal argument and cited authority. During today’s hearing, Rankin’s counsel advanced no new legal authority or facts not already before the Court, and we hope the Court will again deny Rankin’s petition for appeal."

A decision on the outcome of Tuesday's hearing should come in between two weeks and a month. In order for the case to move towards an appeal, at least one of the three judges will need to grant the petition for appeal.


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