STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) — A biracial man who says he was fending off a racist attack on a Georgia highway when he fired a gun into a moving pickup truck and killed a teenage passenger was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison.
A judge imposed the maximum prison sentence for Marc Wilson, 23, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter last month by a Bulloch County jury in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Haley Hutcheson. Prosecutors had unsuccessfully sought a conviction on felony murder charges.
Wilson's attorneys insisted during his August trial that he was justified to shoot in self-defense when the pickup truck's driver tried to run Wilson's car off the road during the summer of 2020. Prosecutors argued Wilson had no legal grounds for firing a handgun in traffic and could have escaped if he was being harassed by another driver.
Superior Court Judge Ronnie Thompson rejected requests for leniency by Wilson's attorneys, who noted that he had no prior criminal record. The judge said Wilson will receive credit for the 20 months he already served in jail awaiting trial, news outlets reported.
Defense attorneys acknowledged that Wilson fired the shot that killed Hutcheson, of Reidsville, on a bypass circling the southeast Georgia city of Statesboro the night of June 24, 2020. One of the bullets he fired pierced the truck’s rear window and struck Hutcheson in the head. She died after her friends rushed her to a hospital.
Wilson turned himself in and surrendered his gun to police three days after the shooting.
Prosecutors had charged Wilson with felony murder, arguing he caused Hutcheson’s death while committing another felony — aggravated assault — by firing his gun at the truck. The jury acquitted Wilson of both those charges and found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Had Wilson been convicted of felony murder, he would have faced an automatic sentence of life in prison.
Wilson — the son of a Black father and white mother — and his white girlfriend had just picked up food from a Taco Bell about 12:30 a.m. when the pickup truck pulled alongside Wilson’s much smaller Ford Focus. Wilson told police the pickup truck tried to run his car off the road as white teenagers inside yelled racist slurs.
The driver of the pickup and two passengers who took the witness stand denied threatening or otherwise provoking Wilson. They also acknowledged that they had been drinking that night, but denied being drunk.
Emma Rigdon, Wilson’s girlfriend at the time, testified that she didn’t hear any racial slurs before the shooting. She recalled, however, being frightened when the pickup truck “started swerving into our lane” and forced Wilson’s car onto the shoulder of the highway.