Black Man Who Claimed Self-Defense in Killing of White Teen Convicted of Manslaughter

Marc Wilson claimed he fired his gun in self-defense after teens yelled racial slurs and tried to run him off the road in Statesboro, Georgia. The jury didn’t see it that way.

A Black man who shot and killed a white teen and claimed self-defense under Georgia’s “stand your ground” law was just found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a grand jury, but not guilty on the more serious murder and aggravated assault charges.

William Marcus (Marc) Wilson, 23, was accused of shooting and killing 17-year-old Haley Hutcheson after he fired at a truck full of teens in Statesboro, Georgia, in June 2020. 

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Wilson’s attorneys claimed he fired out of self-defense after two of the teens in the truck yelled racial slurs and tried to run him and his white girlfriend off the road. One of his bullets struck and killed Hutcheson, who was sitting in the back seat of the pickup.

After a day of deliberation, the grand jury decided that Wilson was not justified when he used his legal gun against the teens he maintained made him fear for his life. But it didn’t punish him to the full extent of the law: Involuntary manslaughter could mean up to 10 years behind bars, a less severe sentence than the possibility of life in prison if convicted of murder. Wilson is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 20.

“The jury mitigated his actions but didn’t justify them,” Melissa Redmon, the prosecutorial justice program director at the University of Georgia’s School of Law and a former Fulton County district attorney, told VICE News.

The case had been closely watched by experts and local human rights organizations like Just Georgia to see whether a Black man could successfully use a stand your ground argument when using deadly force. Similar self-defense arguments led to successful acquittals for Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse and George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin.

“While the Just Georgia Coalition is relieved that Marc Wilson was acquitted of all charges except for involuntary manslaughter, we are disappointed that he has been convicted at all,” said James Woodall, policy associate with the Southern Center for Human Rights, which is part of the coalition. “We are holding the Wilson family in our thoughts and will continue to support them for the duration.”

Video shared by ABC news affiliate WJCL showed Wilson’s family quietly leaving the Bulloch County courthouse.

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At the time of the shooting, Wilson’s lawyers said that if Wilson were white, the state’s response might have played out very differently. 

“We believe that if Marc Wilson was a white gentlemen that night, accosted by a truckload of angry, belligerent, possibly drunk Black men, and he used a legally possessed firearm to defend himself and his passenger, that he would have been given a medal and not given a prosecution,” Wilson’s attorney Francys Johnson previously told reporters.

Instead, Wilson, despite having no criminal record prior to the shooting, spent a year and a half in jail awaiting trial after the original judge overseeing the case, Michael Muldrew, denied him bail for posing a “significant threat to the persons in the community” based on the charges against him. Muldrew was recused in February after he met with two of the prosecuting attorneys in private and allowed them to view emails Wilson sent to his family. Only after the new judge, Judge Ronnie Thompson, replaced Muldrew was Wilson granted release on $100,000 bail.

Regardless of his clean record, prosecutors argued Wilson acted criminally the night of the incident because nothing the teens did that night could justify his use of deadly force.

“As we proceed through that evidence… one thing is going to ring true through this whole trial,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black said in court last week, according to the Statesboro Herald. “That is no matter what gets thrown around this courtroom, no matter what fingers get pointed at anybody, Haley Hutcheson didn’t do a doggone thing to anybody, except get a bullet in the back of her head.”

From 2005 to 2010, the first five years after stand your ground laws were introduced, just 11 percent of cases involving a Black shooter invoking stand your ground and a white victim were deemed justified, according to a 2020 study by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, compared to 45 percent of cases involving a Black victim and a white shooter.

One of the most famous cases of stand your ground being used successfully was in 2013, when George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a Black 17-year-old who was walking home through Zimmerman’s neighborhood in Sanford, Florida, was acquitted. Zimmerman claimed he felt threatened by Martin, despite initiating the interaction by following him through the neighborhood.

And Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two people and injured a third during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020, was found not guilty on all charges, including intentional homicide. The white teen successfully claimed self-defense, arguing that he had little choice but to use deadly force when confronted by protesters.

Follow Trone Dowd on Twitter.

Tagged:

Marc Wilson, Stand Your Ground, self-defense, GEORGIA, Crime, RACISM, kyle rittenhouse, George Zimmerman

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