UPDATED: 5:00 p.m. ET, Sept. 20, 2022
Originally published on Aug. 31, 2022
On Tuesday, a judge sentenced William Marcus “Marc’ Wilson to 10 years in prison, the harshest punishment allowable under the law, in the shooting death of a white teenage girl who was in a truck allegedly attacking the defendant with racist animus.
Wilson has already served more than two years in prison awaiting trial. His defense lawyers asked the judge to give Wilson time served in a trial in which a jury acquitted him of all charges he was facing.
A Black man was on Wednesday found guilty of involuntary manslaughter but acquitted of the most serious charges in a murder case that left one white girl dead and effectively put Georgia’s controversial Stand Your Ground law on trial.
A jury quickly decided William Marcus “Marc’ Wilson‘s fate after beginning deliberations on Tuesday night following a trial that lasted less than two weeks in Bulloch County Superior Court in Statesboro. Wilson, who is biracial, was also found not guilty of murder and aggravated assault.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept 20, according to the Statesboro Herald.
The Rev. James Woodall, a current public policy associate of the Southern Center for Human Rights and former State President of the Georgia NAACP, announced the verdict in a tweet. Woodall has been covering the case diligently on Twitter.
Wednesday’s verdict came two days after Wilson’s mother tearfully took the stand to testify in her son’s defense.
Amanda Wilson testified that her son said his alleged assailants threatened him with death in a racist manner.
“‘N*gger, your life doesn’t matter,’ ‘I was going to die.’ They said, ‘I’m going to kill you,” Amanda Wilson, who is white, claimed under oath.
The jury that convicted Wilson had a racial makeup that included eight white men, four white women, two Black women and one Hispanic man in a county that is about 30% Black, according to Census data.
A 21-year-old Wilson was arrested more than two years ago for the fatal shooting at a “truckload of belligerent racists” trying to run him off the road, his lawyers maintained in the case. He was charged with one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault in the death of Haley Hutcheson, a 17-year-old inside the pursuing truck that defense lawyers said carried white people yelling racial slurs at Wilson and his girlfriend, who is white. Wilson, who was legally permitted to carry the weapon he used to defend himself, argued that he should never have been charged for what his lawyers described as an unfortunate consequence of self-defense on June 14, 2020.
Wilson’s girlfriend offered testimony that was consistent with initial reports that he fired off a warning shot after they felt threatened by the pickup truck while out for a late-night trip to a fast-food restaurant.
“… the truck started swerving into our lane, they started, you know, going up and like coming back but stayed right there with us,” Emma Rigdon testified through tears. “I remember going on the rumble strips, and that’s whenever Marc shot to kind of say, ‘Hey, like leave us alone.’ We just wanted to go get food.”
However, Rigdon did not corroborate the defense’s claims that racist language was being shouted from the truck. When asked by the prosecution whether she heard any racist slurs, Rigdon responded simply, “I didn’t hear any,” and claims she was distracted by “other things.”
Rigdon also testified that she urged Wilson to put his gun away and not use it.
Rigdon’s testimony, coupled with what the Statesboro Herald referred to as “somewhat contradictory opinions from a prosecution and defense expert witnesses” about key details about the shooting, likely sealed Wilson’s fate with the jury.
Ahead of his trial, Wilson was repeatedly denied bail and ultimately spent more than a year behind bars in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the court’s schedule in addition to subsequent questions regarding a judge presiding over the case.
The case seemingly flew under the radar of the national news landscape until recently. NewsOne has covered the case since it happened, fostering a nuanced conversation about what at surface value appears to be a double standard along racial lines when it comes to Stand Your Ground laws.
Woodall, of the Southern Center for Human Rights, said Wilson and his legal team were not afforded their basic Constitutional protections, including the right to legal counsel, due process and judicial impartiality.
When Wilson’s defense counsel discovered that Judge Michael Muldrew and District Attorney Daphne Totten had improper communication during the trial, for example, “they attempted to cover it up without notifying the defense, giving the appearance of judicial impropriety,” Woodall wrote in an op-ed for NewsOne that was published last year. “The district attorney submitted evidence to the judge never shared with Wilson’s defense. And when it was brought to the court’s attention by the defense team, Muldrew held Wilson’s lead defense counsel, Attorney Francys Johnson, in contempt of court.”
Muldrew was ultimately forced to recuse himself after Senior Judge Michael L. Karpf issued a seven-page order in February, but the ruling did not make a finding of bias or inappropriate conduct from the removed judge and instead found that there could be an appearance of bias against Wilson or his attorneys
“While the court does not ascribe actual bias or prejudice by the trial judge against defendant or his counsel, the series of events outlined above do create such an appearance,” Karpf wrote.
Recounting the incident that gave rise to the request for recusal. Karpf noted that the prosecutor handed a notebook with evidence to Muldrew that had never been given to the defense team during the discovery process. The notebook was handed back to the defense by mistake, prompting Wilson’s lead attorney Johnson to request the clerk take possession of the notebook to “preserve a chain of custody.”
That led to Johnson being found in contempt and detained. During a conversation with Johnson’s co-counsel, both Black attorneys, Muldrew claimed that he had several lawyers express “concern about the quality of representation afforded to defendant.”
Karpf found conversations with lawyers outside of the case about the defense team’s performance “would constitute an extra-judicial communication suggestive of prejudice against trial counsel.”
Despite Muldrew’s claims that he received complaints about the defense’s handling of the case, over 100 lawyers signed a letter of support after Johnson was held in contempt.
Wilson’s case was reminiscent of last year’s murder trial for Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager who also claimed he feared for his life when he used an illegally bought assault rifle that he illegally took across state lines to kill two people and critically injure a third at a Black Lives Matter rally in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a little more than two months after the Statesboro shooting.
Despite the clear similarities and differences — Wilson, for instance, was a licensed gun owner of legal age to conceal-carry the weapon — a jury decided that Rittenhouse had done no wrong while a separate jury in Georgia ruled in the opposite for Wilson, placing a bright spotlight on the racial disparities in Georgia’s criminal justice system.
“Young people like Wilson get dragged through the system with procedural delays and the broad realm of judicial and prosecutorial discretion standing in the way of just action,” Woodall also wrote in his op-ed. “Reasonable fear of Blackness is accepted, but Black people’s genuine fear of severe bodily injury or death is often disregarded.”
This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.