PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth judge ruled Tuesday morning to grant a continuance in the trial of former Portsmouth Police officer Stephen Rankin.
The trial had been originally set to begin March 21, but is now slated to begin Aug. 16.
Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales requested that the trial be continued to a later date.
Morales motioned to push the trial, citing three witnesses including a Virginia State Police trooper and an expert witness from the state crime lab will not be available to testify.
Rankin is facing a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old William Chapman last April.
The judge also heard two other motions but did not issue a ruling. That decision will come in written form at a later date.
Those rulings relate two two Morales filed last week. One of the motions requested that the appearance of uniformed law enforcement officers be banned from the trial. Morales wants to limit the number of uniformed police officers in the courtroom to ten. She wants them to sit in groups of three of fewer. Morales told the judge that the officer’s presence could have a chilling effect on the jury, and could bolster the credibility of the defendant. The defense said such a ruling could infringe upon first amendment rights.
The second motion requested additional taser analysis. That motion was granted with no objection from Rankin’s defense.
Morales also motioned Tuesday for Rankin to be excluded from commenting on Chapman’s alleged shoplifting at the Frederick Boulevard Walmart. Morales wants Rankin’s scope of testimony to be limited to from the time he arrived on the scene, not to the moments before he was called. His attorneys said that Morales is attempting to ‘sanitize’ the day’s events.
Sources say Rankin’s defense has witnesses who say he had no choice but to shoot Chapman. They say Chapman was the aggressor in last April’s incident.
There is no date set for when Judge Morrison will rule on those motions.