A young Black man who was recently found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in a case that centered on alleged racist road rage and Georgia’s Stand Your Ground law was sentenced to the most prison time possible under state law on Tuesday.
William Marcus “Marc’ Wilson was given the maximum 10-year sentence for the killing of Haley Hutcheson, a 17-year-old white girl who was struck by gunfire during an alleged road rage attack in 2020 inspired by anti-Black racism.
The prosecution said Wilson never showed “remorse” and requested a sentence of 10 years, according to Rev. James “Major” Woodall, a public policy associate of the Southern Center for Human Rights and former State President of the Georgia NAACP who has been a constant presence in the courtroom during Wilson’s case.
State sentencing guidelines recommend prison time of anywhere from one to 10 years for an involuntary manslaughter conviction. However, considering Wilson was already held behind bars for so long leading up to his trial, his lawyers argued for whatever sentence is imposed to exclude more time behind bars.
During the sentencing hearing, lead defense attorney Francys Johnson, asked the judge to sentence Wilson as a first offender and as a misdemeanor. Johnson cited Georgia code to establish a legal precedent for the judge to impose a misdemeanor punishment for felonies carrying prison sentences from one to 10 years.
It was not immediately clear whether Wilson’s lawyers would appeal the conviction and sentencing.
Wilson, 23, arrived at his sentencing hearing having already spent more than two years behind bars following the denials of multiple requests for bail stemming from his role in the 2020 death of a 17-year-old white girl from a shooting he maintains was in self-defense during a road rage attack inspired by anti-Black racism.
Wilson was acquitted of the most serious charges more than two years after he killed Haley Hutcheson with a legally owned gun stemming from an encounter on a Statesboro road. A jury decided Wilson’s fate after just several hours of deliberations following a trial that lasted less than two weeks in Bulloch County Superior Court. Wilson, who is biracial, was found not guilty of murder and aggravated assault.
That prompted Wilson’s legal team of defense lawyers to decry what they called a miscarriage of justice after their client was not found guilty of any of the charges he was facing in the murder trial.
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 Hutcheson, who was 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 said 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.
During the murder trial, Wilson’s girlfriend offered testimony 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.
Johnson said he recognized from the outset that the case was “a legal lynching.”
Johnson said Wilson “didn’t use his weapon in a way that was unlawful” and thus should not have been convicted of any crime.
Because Wilson was acquitted on all the charges he faced going into the trial, Johnson said there isn’t a legal justification for his manslaughter conviction.
“There is no felony to predicate this involuntary manslaughter charge,” Johnson emphasized during a press conference in the days after Wilson was convicted.
Johnson’s comments echoed his sentiments immediately following the verdict: “If that option had been included as we asked and insisted, this jury would have found Marc guilty of the misdemeanor version of manslaughter and Marc would be coming home.”