RICHMOND, Va. – Lawyers for former Portsmouth Police Officer Stephen Rankin went to the Supreme Court in Richmond Tuesday in an effort to get him an appeal.
The former officer was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting an unarmed 18-year-old while on duty.
William Chapman was killed in a Walmart parking after an interaction with Rankin in April 2015.
Rankin’s attorneys, Nicole Belote and James Broccoletti, attended the hearing along with Rankin's wife and a juror who was on the case and now regrets the guilty verdict.
Broccoletti spoke for 10 minutes in front of a three-justice panel.
Rankin was not present during the hearing.
Broccoletti argued about why they believe there were errors in the trial.
He told the justices the jury heard Rankin say on police video, "This is my second one," referring to his second shooting while on the job.
The court previously ruled Rankin's first shooting was not supposed to be part of the trial.
Broccoletti argued it was unfair for the jury to hear the video and said it was confusing for the jurors.
He also argued violent drawings in Chapman’s bookbag were not allowed in evidence, nor were Chapman’s prior convictions.
Broccoletti also stated that an interaction between a juror and a Chapman family friend during deliberations was inappropriate and not investigated properly by the court.
In April, the Virginia Court of Appeals denied their efforts for an appeal in the case.
Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Morales has previously praised them for their decision saying Rankin's conviction was proper in all respects.
However, those fighting for Rankin are still hopeful.
"The Supreme Court has reversed a unanimous Court of Appeals decision many times in the past," said Broccoletti.
On September 3, 2015, Rankin was indicted on charges of first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony by a grand jury. He was then fired by the city.
A jury found Rankin guilty of voluntary manslaughter in August 2016. He was sentenced to serve 2.5 years in prison in October 2016.
Since then, attorneys have been working to appeal his conviction.
During that process, the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office submitted a brief opposing the petition for appeal, arguing that there were no legal errors in the trial.
The Virginia Office of the Attorney General also filed a brief echoing that position.
The Virginia Court of Appeals adopted and agreed with the position of both offices.
Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales released the following statement in April:
Today the Court of Appeals agreed that the conviction of Stephen Rankin was proper in all respects, and we are thankful for this ruling. Our team of attorneys sought to uphold the law and seek justice, and we are glad to learn that the Court of Appeals agrees that we did so appropriately.
This ruling is the culmination of many months of litigation, and it encourages us to continue to seek justice for all victims of violent crime, but especially those whose ability to speak for themselves has been taken away too soon.
Broccoletti said it takes two out of the three justices to decide if any of the errors that were raised have merit, and if they grant the petition for appeal the full State Supreme Court made up of seven justices will hear the case.
The three-justice panel's decision is expected within the next six weeks.