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Attorneys set out conflicting stories as Marc Wilson trial gets underway
State: ‘Words alone’ no excuse for deadly force; Defense: Much more than ‘mere words’ involved
Ogeechee Circuit assistant district attorney Barclay Black places a photograph of shooting victim Haley Hutcheson in view of the jury as William Marcus “Marc” Wilson's felony murder trial related to the death of Hutcheson gets underway on Wednesday, Aug.2
Ogeechee Circuit assistant district attorney Barclay Black places a photograph of shooting victim Haley Hutcheson in view of the jury as William Marcus “Marc” Wilson's felony murder trial related to the death of Hutcheson gets underway on Wednesday, Aug.24. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

In opening statements Wednesday in the murder trial of William Marcus “Marc” Wilson, lawyers for the prosecution and defense set out conflicting stories around why he fired several shots – including one that killed Haley Hutcheson – from a moving vehicle on Veterans Memorial Parkway the night of June 13-14, 2020.

In nothing heard the first day of the trial, or in previous hearings dating back two years, has anyone denied that Wilson fired his Taurus 9 mm pistol or testified that Hutcheson, who was 17, personally did or said anything toward him. Accompanied by four other teenagers from Claxton, all of whom had reportedly been drinking alcoholic beverages, she was seated between two of them in the back seat of a loud, lift kit-equipped four-door Chevrolet pickup truck when one bullet passed through the back window from behind and into the back of her head.

But Wilson, now 23, who is biracial, is asserting through his defense attorneys that he was defending himself and his white then-girlfriend who was riding with him in his Ford Focus from a racist attack, including shouting of slurs, throwing of beer cans and aggressive driving, by occupants of the truck.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black, who is leading the prosecution while accompanied by Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Daphne Totten, gave the first opening statement Wednesday morning in an upstairs courtroom at the Bulloch County Judicial Annex.

“We are going to prove that William Marcus Wilson fired shots at this truck and killed Haley Hutcheson,” Black asserted. “As we proceed through that evidence, as we go through what was found, reported, collected, photographed, measured, one thing is going to ring true through this whole trial, and that is no matter what gets thrown around this courtroom, no matter what fingers get pointed at anybody, Haley Hutcheson didn’t do a doggone thing to anybody, except get a bullet in the back of her head.”

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William Marcus “Marc” Wilson, center, stands as the jury enters the courtroom as Wilson's felony murder trial related to the death of Haley Hutcheson gets underway on Wednesday, Aug.24. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

In Black’s opening statement version of the story, the five then-teenagers who were Claxton High School students had traveled to Northside Drive in search of a late-evening meal.  But in that pandemic summer they found the McDonald’s closed and the Waffle House only serving to-go, so they  headed  back toward Claxton, turning right from Northside Drive onto the parkway, which is Statesboro’s U.S. Highway 301 bypass.

Black acknowledged from the start that the teenagers were drinking beer, but he  made no other observations about their behavior, except that they immediately took Hutcheson to the hospital after she was shot.

After noting that the burden is on the prosecution to prove if Wilson is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” Black told jurors that if they accept a self-defense claim it must be based on what “a reasonable person” should do in the situation and not  what Wilson alone thought was right.

“Words alone never justify deadly force,” Black said. “Words alone never justify the use of deadly force against another human being. That’s the law.”

 

Defense version

But Wilson’s lead attorney, Francys Johnson of Statesboro – who was accompanied  at the defense table by Martha Hall, also of  Statesboro, Johnson’s  law  partner Mawuli Davis, who has  offices in Decatur and  Savannah, and Nefertara Clark from Elberton – called Black’s opening statement version of events a “fiction”  and said jurors need to seek “the  whole truth.”

“Here’s what we believe the evidence will show, that this case was about, and is about, self-defense,” Johnson said. “This case is about how Emma Rigdon …, Marcus Wilson’s girlfriend who was in the car with him, how Emma Rigdon was saved from being run off the road and being shot to death. That’s what this case is about. This case is about how Emma Rigdon and William Marcus Wilson missed their early graves when they decided to go on a late-night run to Taco Bell.”

Johnson brought a Taco Bell cardboard box, paper bag and two cups with him as he positioned himself in front of the jury for the opening statement. He said the then-couple had driven from her apartment in The Garden District to Taco Bell and were driving back when they encountered the teenagers in the pickup truck driven by Mason Glisson.

Glisson, “after drinking alcohol almost the entire afternoon and evening, recklessly drove his big, black Chevy Silverado with lift kits repeatedly, over and over again, into the lane of Marc Wilson’s Ford Focus,” Johnson claimed.

 

Glisson testifying

But Glisson, who testified as a prosecution witness at the end of Wednesday’s court session and was expected to return to the stand Thursday morning, denied swerving or attempting to run anyone off the road. Ashton Deloach, who had been seated beside Glisson on the passenger side in front of the truck, was the first witness the state called and also testified that this didn’t happen.

Both said, in sworn testimony, that they did not have guns that night and did not see any other occupants of the truck with a gun. Johnson, in his opening statement, said investigators found along the highway, in addition to three bullets matched to Wilson’s gun, one from a 9mm not matching his gun and a .40-caliber round, but evidence of this is not part of the trial at this point.

Last spring, one of the reasons  for a postponement of the trial was a report from a ballistics expert whose services were retained by the defense.

Also in his opening statement, Johnson asserted that the teenagers in the truck mistook Rigdon and Wilson for a young white woman they knew from Claxton High and a black or biracial man they saw her kissing earlier that evening at the Parker’s convenience store near the bypass.

Johnson said some in the truck called Rigdon a “n… loving b…”

“If all they said was mere words, that wouldn’t be enough to justify force, but in addition to that you will hear evidence that they said more than that, that they said to Marc Wilson, ‘We’re going to kill you, n …,’” Johnson added.

But no testimony to that effect was heard the first day, and Wilson’s attorneys have not indicated whether he will testify. Of course, under the Fifth Amendment he has no obligation to do so.

Superior Court Judge Ronald K. Thompson, who is conducting the trial, had at first scheduled it through Friday. But since jury selection alone took two extended days, Monday and Tuesday, he  has mentioned the possibility of the  trial  running into Saturday or next week.

The 15-member jury panel that emerged, including three alternates, consists of eight men and seven women. Most of the jurors are white, but at least two Black jurors, both women, are included. At least one apparently Hispanic man is also serving  on the jury.

Thompson sent the jury home at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdsay with instructions to return at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

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