Appeals court affirms Lancaster boating crash verdict: 'Plenty of credible evidence'

Posted at 12:36 PM, Sep 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-19 12:36:54-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s decision to find Rand Hooper guilty of killing his friend Graham McCormick in a boating crash six years ago.

Hooper, who is from Richmond, had appealed the verdict to the state Court of Appeals in May, arguing that his due process rights were violated.

Last year, a jury found Hooper guilty of involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of a deadly accident, which happened in Lancaster County in August 2017.

A judge sentenced Hooper to six years behind bars.

In the appeal, the defense argued that there was no direct evidence Hooper was operating the boat at the time of the crash, and, therefore, the lower court made a mistake when it denied Hooper's original motions to strike the charges against him.

But the Virginia Court of Appeals wrote in its opinion that “there is plenty of credible evidence in the record to support the jury’s findings of fact that Hooper was driving the boat when it hit a bulkhead late at night when McCormick was thrown overboard and then drowned.”

Among the “credible evidence” appeals court judges highlighted:

  • Hooper drove the boat on the first outing of the day
  • He knew his father’s Boston Whaler and the waters of Carter’s Creek while Graham McCormick (from Atlanta) did not know either nearly as well
  • Hooper lied to the police and to his friends that he did not take the boat out again until midnight late that night

In addition, Hooper admitted that he drove the boat back to his parents’ home after its collision with a bulkhead that led to the disappearance and death of Graham McCormick.

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