A Georgia jury found a man not guilty of murder and assault charges this week in the 2020 fatal shooting of a 17-year-old girl; still, his attorneys plan to appeal the conviction.
The Bulloch County jury on Wednesday returned a guilty verdict for a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter for William “Marc” Wilson, who said the girl, Hailey Hutcheson was in a vehicle with a group of other teenagers who called him racial slurs before trying to run him off the road.
Wilson’s attorneys argued that the slew of charges and their client’s treatment by the judicial system was about race. They claim Wilson, a biracial man, shot his 9mm handgun into a pickup truck with four white people because he feared for his life. One bullet struck Hailey in the head. A judge struck down claims of stand-your-ground defense in the case.
Wilson’s defense attorney, Mawuli Davis, said the acquittal of the charges against his client speaks volumes to evidence of his motive behind the shooting. The voluntary manslaughter charge was not part of Wilson’s indictment, Davis said, but the prosecutor added it at the “11th hour” to push for a conviction.
“A young man had no duty to retreat after being attacked, chased — an attempt on his life,” said Davis during a press conference on Thursday morning. “He ended up not only trying to defend his life but a life of a young lady by the name of Emma Rigdon as they were going to be run off the road by a group of drunk white males.”
The 12-member jury, including one Black woman, found Wilson not guilty of murder, felony murder, voluntary manslaughter, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and five counts of aggravated assault. The 23-year-old will face time for the manslaughter charge, which carries a sentence of one to 10 years. He has already served over 600 days.
Wilson’s attorneys said he was driving along Veterans Memorial Parkway in Statesboro on his way back home from Taco Bell with his girlfriend, Rigdon, after 1 a.m. on June 14, 2020, when he had the encounter with the teens in a Chevrolet Silverado pickup.
The white teenagers in the Chevrolet were hanging out of the windows shouting racial slurs at Wilson and calling Rigdon, who is white, an “N-word lover.”
“Your lives don’t matter!” they also reportedly yelled.
Wilson’s attorney said Johnson fired his gun after he heard something hit his car. A police report shows there’s evidence that indicates someone in the truck threw a beer can at Wilson’s Ford Focus. Hailey was in the center backseat of the Chevrolet.
Attorney Nefertara Clark said the group of white teenagers were “racist” and “committed to ending” Wilson and Ridgon’s lives.
“He warned them. They kept coming,” Clark said.
In addition to being denied stand-your-ground immunity, Wilson was also denied bond twice. He was only offered a bond after Ogeechee Circuit Superior Court Judge Michael T. Muldrew was removed when a senior judge found a disparate treatment of witnesses that “does raise an appearance of bias,” among other things.
Attorney Francys Johnson said the legal team plans to appeal the conviction. She believes there were “significant errors” in the trial, including the exclusion of a misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter option.
However, prosecutors said the “verdict is a verdict that speaks the truth.”
“We ask juries every day to return verdicts that speak the truth, and the truth, in this case, is that what Marc Wilson did that night on the bypass was a crime, and this family that we stand here with right now, they’ve waited a long day on behalf of Haley Hutcheson,” Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Daphne Totten said after the verdict Wednesday.
“She was only 17 years old when this happened and did absolutely nothing wrong that night, she was innocent and lost her life at the hands of Marc Wilson.”
Chief Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black said the verdict shows the jury rejected Wilson’s “concept of justification and that this was not self-defense.” Black said prosecutors plan to ask for an “appropriate amount of time in the sentencing range commiserate with the actual facts and circumstance.”
Wilson’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 2 p.m.