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Defense not satisfied with Marc Wilson verdict; prosecutors say justice done
Sentence yet to be set, but involuntary manslaughter conviction allows 1-10 years for Hutcheson’s death
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In this file photo, flanked by attorneys Francys Johnson, left, and Mawuli Davis, William Marcus “Marc” Wilson reacts as a guilty verdict for Involuntary Manslaughter is read on Wednesday, August 31. Wilson remains in jail and is scheduled for sentencing Tuesday afternoon on his recent conviction for involuntary manslaughter for the June 14, 2020 shooting death of 17-year-old Haley Hutcheson on Statesboro’s bypass. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Following about seven hours of deliberation, a jury found Marc Wilson guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the June 14, 2020 shooting death of Haley Hutcheson. He was found not guilty on all other counts, including the felony murder charge in the original indictment.

After the verdict was read about 1:15 p.m. Wednesday in Bulloch County Superior Court, Judge Ronald K. “Ronnie” Thompson announced sentencing would be Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. No new bond was set for Wilson at this time, and he was sent back to the Bulloch County Jail.

“Love you, son!  …  “Love you!  Love you!” Wilson’s father, Deron “Pat” Wilson, shouted in the courtroom above sounds of sobbing from his wife, Amanda Wilson, and others among their family and friends as their son was escorted out.

In instructing the jury Tuesday afternoon, Judge Thompson had given a range of options for the verdict regarding the felony murder charge from the 2020 indictment.

With those options, jurors could acquit Marc Wilson of felony murder – which means causing a death by committing another felony, in this case allegedly aggravated assault – but find him guilty of one of the lesser homicide crimes: second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

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Haley Hutcheson's father, Dusty Hutcheson, and her stepmother, Allison Hutcheson, listen quietly as the jury is polled after finding William Marcus Wilson guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday related to the death of Haley Hutcheson on June 14, 2020. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Unanimously, the 12 jurors acquitted him of all other charges but convicted him of involuntary manslaughter. In Georgia, felony-level involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of from one to 10 years. Following his arrest in June 2020, Wilson was incarcerated in the Bulloch County Jail for more than 20 months before receiving bond, set at $100,000, in March.

Since posting bond, he had been out under conditional “house arrest,” at his parents’ home in Sharpsburg, Georgia, where he wore an ankle monitor and remained within a 25-mile radius of the home except when returning to Statesboro for court proceedings.

The indictment had also alleged five counts of aggravated assault and one of possession of a firearm during commission of a felony, but those charges are now erased by the jury’s not-guilty verdict on each.

 

Gag order lifted

After the verdict, Thompson lifted the gag order another judge issued two years ago that barred parties to the case from commenting out of court and unsealed the case file Thompson himself ordered sealed earlier this year. Two media conferences were then held within an hour.

“We’re here with the Wilson family today, and today this jury spoke as the voice of this community and said that Marc Wilson is no murderer,” his lead attorney, Francys Johnson, said in front of the Bulloch County Judicial Annex. “They’ve always known that, and now this jury has spoken.”

He was standing beside the other attorneys on the defense team – Martha Hall, Nefertara Clark and Muwali Davis – with Wilson’s family members behind them. After initially sounding pleased to the extent that Wilson was cleared of the murder charge, Johnson indicated that the family and attorneys were far from satisfied with the guilty verdict on felony-level involuntary manslaughter and what it took to get to this point.

“Now let me be clear. It was the justice issues that were involved in this case that got us involved,” Johnson said.  “When I spoke to Pat and Amanda Wilson just two days after this incident back in June of 2020, they explained the situation that their son was in, a situation that any of our sons and daughters could have found themselves in in the midst of 2020, or today, I knew that they were facing a legal lynching, and our job was to stop that lynching from taking place.”

 

Not murder

A conviction for felony murder would have given the judge no options except to impose a life sentence. For a life sentence for a crime committed after July 1, 2006, parole will only be considered after 30 years, according to a Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles chart.

When Wilson fired several shots from a 9mm handgun while driving his Ford Fusion, accompanied by his then-girlfriend Emma Rigdon, along Veterans Memorial Parkway, Statesboro’s bypass, shortly before 1 a.m. on Sunday, June 14, 2020, one bullet struck Hutcheson, 17, in the head, as has not been disputed. At the time she was riding with four other teenagers from Claxton in a crew-cab Chevrolet Silverado pickup.

Wilson’s attorneys have long asserted that teenagers in the truck, particularly the three boys, initiated a conflict, shouting racial slurs, gesturing and swerving into Wilson’s lane, after mistaking Wilson, who is biracial, and Rigdon, who is white, for another interracial couple.

His attorneys intend to appeal the conviction based on their belief that “significant errors” occurred during the trial. Johnson asserted that one of those errors was the exclusion of the misdemeanor version of involuntary manslaughter from the list of lesser included offenses.

“We think that there was significant error in this trial and that this jury, if it had been given the option of a misdemeanor version of manslaughter would have chosen that, if anything,” he said.

As a misdemeanor, that would have carried a maximum sentence of one year.

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Outside the Bulloch County Judicial Annex, lead defense attorney Francys Johnson conducts a press conference with the family and supporters of William Marcus Wilson after he is found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday related to the death of Haley Hutcheson on June 14, 2020. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

The defense attorneys said they would also file a request for a new bond.

During the sentencing hearing, the judge will hear statements of aggravating and mitigating circumstances. As before, Wilson’s attorneys note that he had no prior criminal record and argue that he lived an exemplary life prior to the tragic June 2020 encounter.

 

‘Speaks the truth’

Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Daphne Totten and Chief Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black then held their press conference across the street beside the historic Bulloch County Courthouse. Several members of Hutcheson’s family stood behind them.

“We believe that this verdict is a verdict that speaks the truth,” Totten said.  “We ask juries every day to return verdicts that speak the truth, and  the truth in this case is that what  Marc Wilson did that night on the bypass was a crime,  and this family that we stand  here  with right now,  they’ve  waited a long day on behalf  of Haley Hutcheson. She was only 17 years old when this happened and  did  absolutely nothing wrong that night, she was  innocent  and lost her  life at the hands of  Marc Wilson.”

Totten expressed thanks to a “concerned citizen,” one of the witnesses  for the state, who called police with information connecting Wilson  to the shooting.

She also thanked Statesboro police who worked on the case and testified, and Black, who was the lead prosecutor of this case.

“Today we had a verdict returned that says some very important things, a very important message to the community of Bulloch County and to Marc Wilson himself,” Black said. “First of all, Marc Wilson committed a felony act, committed a crime, when he took the life of Haley Hutcheson. Furthermore, the verdict speaks that they rejected his concept of justification and that this was not self-defense.”

The District Attorney’s Office intends to ask for “appropriate amount of time in the sentencing range commiserate with the actual facts and circumstances,” Black said.

“Haley had a very loving family,” said her stepmother, Allison Hutcheson. “She was very much loved, she was so special to us, and not a day goes by that we don’t think about her and she’ll forever live on in our hearts and our memories.”

She thanked Totten, Black and victims’ advocates.

“We would above all else like to thank the Lord Jesus Christ for his mercy and his faithfulness and being faithful to us in getting justice for our baby girl and for our  family,” Hutcheson said.

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