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A biracial Black man who claimed that he fatally shot a teenage girl in self-defense following an alleged racist encounter on a Georgia highway will spend a decade behind bars after being convicted of manslaughter.
William “Marc” Wilson, 23, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday for the deadly 2020 shooting of 17-year-old Haley Hutcheson, the Statesboro Herald reported, after being convicted on charges of felony involuntary manslaughter.
Wilson, who is biracial, was driving a Ford Focus on Veterans Memorial Parkway on June 14, 2020 when he opened fire on a lifted Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck with five white then-teens inside, according to the Statesboro Herald. A bullet fired by Wilson pierced the truck’s cab and struck Hutcheson in the head.
Since his arrest, however, Wilson has maintained the shooting was in self-defense — and had stemmed from a racially motivated attack perpetrated by the occupants of the pickup truck.
According to Wilson’s defense team, the 23-year-old fired at the truck while at the wheel of his Ford Fusion because he feared for his life and that of his girlfriend, Emily Rigdon, who was in the passenger seat.
Wilson's lead lawyer, Francys Johnson, told the court that the pickup truck's driver, Mason Glison, was intoxicated at the time of the incident and had been swerving dangerously at the compact car that Wilson was driving.
“After drinking alcohol almost the entire afternoon and evening, [Glison] recklessly drove his big, black Chevy Silverado with lift kits repeatedly, over and over again, into the lane of Marc Wilson’s Ford Focus,” Black said, according to the Statesboro Herald.
At some point, his lawyers said, an unknown passenger in the truck called Rigdon a “n-----r loving b---h” during the highway altercation, his lawyers said.
Rigdon testified at trial that Wilson’s actions saved her life.
“I fully believe Marc saved my life that night,” Rigdon told the jury. “I wholly believe if Marc was not there that night and wouldn’t have done what he did, we would have both been dead.”
At trial, prosecutors had argued that “words alone” didn’t permit Wilson to open fire on the group, per the Statesboro Herald.
“Words alone never justify deadly force,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black said during the trial’s opening statements. “Words alone never justify the use of deadly force against another human being. That’s the law.”
“Haley Hutcheson didn’t do a doggone thing to anybody, except get a bullet in the back of her head,” Black added
Wilson’s lawyers, meanwhile, repeatedly countered that the exchange escalated beyond “mere words.”
“If all they said was mere words, that wouldn’t be enough to justify force, but in addition to that you will hear evidence that they said more than that, that they said to Marc Wilson, ‘We’re going to kill you, n----r,’” Francys Johnson, Wilson’s lead attorney said in court, the Statesboro Herald reported.
Though the jury didn't convict Wilson on his original charges of murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a deadly weapon to commit a felony charges, they did convict him of felony involuntary manslaughter in the case. (Wilson’s defense team insists that the jury should have been able to weigh the possibility of misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, which instead carries a maximum punishment of up to one year.)
Wilson's felony manslaughter conviction left him facing between one and 10 years behind bars; he received 10.
“I want everyone in this room to know that irregardless of a person’s race, whether it’s their birth certificate, what they may identify as, whatever race they say they are, this court is colorblind, and I can assure you that the sentence that Mr. Wilson gets today would be the same sentence as any person of any color under the same circumstances,” Superior Court Judge Ronald K. Thompson said.
Thompson denied any racial animus factored into his decision.
“What it comes down to is choices — and I would tell Mr. Wilson the same thing I would tell any other person of any other color in his circumstances — that he made a bad decision,” Thompson added.
Wilson’s family and a number of his advocates have nonetheless cast the court’s ruling as racist, blasting its interpretation of Georgia’s “stand your ground laws” when it comes to people of color.
“If you put me in Marc’s shoes, there’s no way that I would've been prosecuted,” Wilson’s cousin, Chance Pridgen — who is white — told Yahoo News. “Odds are I would've been given a medal — probably gotten a parade in my name. It’s unreal how he was treated just because he’s a little bit more tan than I am.”
“The political pressure has been on from Day One to lynch Marc Wilson for the death of Haley Hutcheson,” his lawyer, Johnson, told VICE News last week. “We’re going to continue to fight for this young man at each stage,” Johnson said.
According to the case’s judge, Wilson will have the opportunity to request a new trial.
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