The family of William Marcus Wilson, 23, has been on an emotional roller coaster ever since June of 2020 when he turned himself in for the death of Haley Hutcheson, 17. Wilson has been incarcerated for 18 months and counting awaiting trial. He is claiming self-defense based on Georgia’s stand your ground law.
On June 14, 2020, Wilson, who is biracial, was driving with his girlfriend in Statesboro, Georgia, which is about 60 miles northwest of Savannah. Wilson says as he was driving, a pickup truck with four white people inside, including Hutcheson, were allegedly intoxicated and taunted Wilson with racist slurs and the driver nearly drove Wilson off the road. Wilson responded by firing his gun toward the truck, killing Hutcheson.
“The law is, you can use deadly force when in imminent danger or you have probable cause, or you have probable cause to suspect you are in imminent danger,” James Woodall said of Georgia’s stand your ground law. Woodall is the coordinator for A Just Georgia Coalition and public policy associate for the Southern Center for Human Rights; he is also president of the Georgia NAACP.
According to Georgia law, rules surrounding stand your ground allows a person to use deadly force to protect him or herself, others or their property, which includes a vehicle if they feel their life is in danger.
“Marc can defend himself under Georgia’s law, there is a provision within Georgia’s stand your ground statute that says he has no duty to retreat, meaning he has no duty to deescalate his use of force simply because there may be an opportunity for him to do so,” Woodall said of Wilson’s claim to stand your ground.
On august 18, 2020, Judge Michael Mildrew denied Wilson bond for the murder charge and aggravated assault charges. Wilson’s fight for justice became more complicated as a squabble ensued between the state prosecutor, Judge Mildrew and Wilson’s defense attorneys.
In September, at an immunity from prosecution hearing on the stand your ground motion, Wilson’s defense lawyers claim improper communication took place between state prosecutors and Judge Mildrew.
Wilson’s defense team wants Judge Mildrew to recuse himself from the case because of the alleged improper communication but so far, no judge has determined if a recusal is necessary and since the immunity hearing was inconclusive, no judgment has been made on Wilson’s stand your ground motion.
“There’s nothing else that can be done right now because you don’t have another judge assigned to this case while this recusal process is playing out,” Woodall said of the ex parte communication and recusal.
Meanwhile, as Wilson’s defense team battles his case within the court system, his supporters question how much his race plays into his stand your ground defense. “There are two particular points within the statute that cause for concern when it comes to racial disparity, one is what is reasonable. What we struggle with is, is it reasonable for a Black person to defend themselves against a racist white person,” Woodall said.
“We don’t understand why justice was so hard to come by for someone who looks different who has brown skin, we don’t understand this is how it has to be,” said the Wilson’s sister, Chelsea Burnett, who also lamented at a November press conference the difficulty of living without her brother for a year and a half.
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