A judge in Georgia has denied bail for a Black driver who claims he shot in self-defense at a truck trying to run him off the road while yelling racial slurs at him in June.
William Marcus Wilson, a 21-year-old bi-racial man charged with murder in the shooting that killed a teenage girl despite being legally permitted to carry a gun, has been held behind bars for more than two months in a case centering on the kind of Stand Your Ground Law that has routinely allowed white defendants similarly charged in other states to post bond and be released while awaiting trial. However, even after hearing from a parade of witnesses that included people inside what Wilson’s lawyers have called a “truckload of belligerent racists” offering inconsistent accounts, Bulloch County Superior Court Judge Michael Muldrew apparently resorted to a familiar trope when denying bail.
According to the Newman-Times Herald, a local news outlet, Muldrew decided a preliminary hearing on Tuesday that “Wilson’s anger appeared to have overtaken him when he had contact with the person in the truck,” which renders him “a significant threat to persons in the community.”
Wilson’s lawyers have argued their client should never have been charged in what they described as an unfortunate case of justified self-defense that ended with a life being lost.
The deadly episode unfolded when Wilson and his girlfriend, who is white, went on a late-night food run to Taco Bell in the early morning hours of June 14. While they were there, a truck carrying five teenagers — Mason Edward Glisson, Luke Harry Conley and Ashton Robert Deloach, all 18, and Haley Hutcheson, 17 — saw Wilson’s car and mistook his girlfriend for someone else they saw earlier night with a different Black man.
Perhaps outraged at believing they saw not just one interracial relationship but two, the case of mistaken identity that was admitted in court Tuesday seemed to be the reason why Wilson encountered the truck while he and his girlfriend were returning from getting food.
According to the Statesboro Herald, Wilson told police the truck was swerving in front of his car, which he said was also struck by an unidentified object thrown from the truck.
“All I can tell you is me and my girlfriend were really scared that night,” the detective testified that Wilson told him. “With everything going on in this country, I’m not going to let me and my girl get run off the road.”
An online petition demanding justice for Wilson said he “fired off a warning shot” that struck Hutcheson. However, the other teenagers inside the truck each said Wilson fired two separate sets of three shots, with one of them striking Hutcheson in the back of her head.
Defense attorneys established on Tuesday that all of the teenagers in the truck were drinking beer when they encountered Wilson.
One of the teens in the truck — Luke Conley — has a criminal record and withheld information from police, which resulted in his arrest for obstruction of justice. All of the teens told police they never used racial slurs nor tried to run him off the road. However, another of the teens inside the truck testified that Conley “may have flipped the vehicle off.”
Francys Johnson, one of the attorneys representing Wilson, said in a press conference in June that the four male teens in the truck “have a reputation” in the area and that they were afforded special privileges by police.
A preliminary hearing was held in Statesboro last month but was cut short after witnesses subpoenaed by Wilson’s lawyers announced they had tested positive for COVID-19 and would not be able to participate because of social distancing guidelines. Local news outlet WTOC reported that both the defense and prosecution had “a line of witnesses to testify why Marc Wilson should or should not be granted bond.” However, because the hearing in Bulloch County Superior Court was cut short and set to continue at another date, Wilson had to remain jailed.
Muldrew issued a gag order during that hearing despite Wilson’s lawyers arguing that the police instantly criminalized their client, local press offered sympathetic coverage to Hutcheson and cast their client as the villain despite the law being on his side.
Legislators have been pushing to change Georgia’s Stand Your Grund Law for years now. According to Courthouse News, the law was enacted in 2006 and “allows Georgians to use deadly force to defend themselves, other persons or property based on a ‘reasonable belief’ that such force is necessary to prevent death, bodily injury or a forcible felony.” Before that, the law said that only “victims of a crime” were allowed to use lethal force. Just last month, 10 Georgia lawyers sent a letter to the General Assembly asking for the state’s “stand your ground” law to be repealed.
Those efforts were partially because, as NBC News reported, “concepts such as danger and fear, even who is the aggressor and who has a right to self-defense, are often manipulated or blurred in real life by race.”
That was certainly the case earlier this year when the same law was being used by the white men involved in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger who was tracked, trapped and gunned down in the street by white men in what appeared to be a premeditated killing. Arbery’s accused murderers said they were defending themselves and avoided arrests and prosecution for months until media attention exposed the clear miscarriage of justice. While all three men accused of Arbery’s murder have all been denied bond, it was only after a video of the shooting went viral when it was established that the state’s Stand Your Ground did not apply to them.
However, under its definition, it would appear that the law does apply in Wilson’s case.
The case for granting bail in Stand Your Ground cases seemed to be much more clear in neighboring Florida, where neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman killed unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2002. Even though police told Zimmerman to stand down, he still approached Martin and need up shooting him to death. Still, not only was Zimmerman granted bail but he was also acquitted in the second-degree murder case.
So much for innocent until proven guilty.
This is America.
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