Judge Ronnie Thompson is to decide next week whether to keep a Bulloch County Superior Court jury trial of William Marcus “Marc” Wilson on felony murder and other charges scheduled for June 27-July 1 or postpone it until late August.
Wilson, now 23, previously spent more than 20 months in jail but has been out on a conditional “house arrest” $100,000 bond since early March. He is accused of causing the June 14, 2020 death of Haley Hutcheson, 17, with a shot fired from one vehicle toward another on Veterans Memorial Parkway.
If Thompson postpones the trial, it will be on a motion by Wilson’s defense attorneys to do so while awaiting the availability of an expert witness. That was one of the things the judge indicated when Wilson appeared in court for an additional pretrial motions hearing Thursday. At its conclusion, Thompson also ordered the court file sealed awaiting the trial.
Speaking to the judge, Martha Hall, a Statesboro- and Springfield-based attorney on Wilson’s defense team, said the defense attorneys believed they had now received, through the discovery process, all of the evidence prosecutors plan to present. But some material, “related to ballistics,” was received by the defense “just in March and April,” she said, and mentioned an FBI report and the autopsy report.
“We needed those before we could retain the services of an expert,” Hall said.
But the defense now had such an expert and his name is Chris Robinson, she said. One forensic consultant by that name, who previously worked for the Atlanta Police Department Crime Lab and for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, has a company based in Sharpsburg.
Hall told the judge that Robinson had done a preliminary report but needed to do additional testing, such as test firing the handgun. She also said that Robinson had, unknown to the defense attorneys before they hired him, “a prepaid vacation June 27 through July 7” that he could not change.
Thompson had originally slated the trial to begin April 18, but in response to a previous defense motion in March, postponed it to begin June 27 with a courtroom again reserved for five days, through July 1.
Meanwhile, the defense still had not received a requested copy of the transcript of Wilson’s March 2-4 immunity hearing, Hall said. She said the autopsy report, which already existed in September 2020, was not released by the GBI until March of this year.
“Judge, the state’s announcement in all of this is, ‘ready for trial,’” said Ogeechee Circuit Chief Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black. “This is the fourth motion for continuance that has been filed by the defense in this case thus far. … We’re ready to go.”
Thompson told the attorneys that he would reschedule the case for jury selection and trial the week of Aug. 22 on condition that the defense provides the court an affidavit, in other words a sworn statement, from Robinson about his vacation by 5 p.m. Monday. If not, the trial will go forward June 27-July 1, the judge said.
He also said, at first, that he would issue a protective order sealing the immunity hearing transcript from public view while awaiting trial. During the March hearing, Thompson heard some witnesses after sending media reporters and the general public out of the courtroom, and he will be ruling on whether their testimony and certain other evidence would be admissible at trial.
After Wilson’s lead attorney, Francys Johnson, said that transcripts of some other hearings were already in the case file, Thompson expanded his order to seal the entire file from view.
“Well, if somebody’s already seen them, they’ve already seen them, but from here on out, we’re not going to have any rooting around,” he said. “We’re going to get ready for trial.”
He noted that a gag order, issued by another judge in 2020, remains in effect. One of the exceptions allows attorneys and court officials to state the dates of upcoming court proceedings.