The parents of and lawyers for William Marcus “Marc” Wilson, 21, asserted in an online press conference Monday that he was defending himself and his girlfriend from a racially motivated attack when he shot at the truck in which Haley Hutcheson, 17, was a passenger.
Hutcheson, a Claxton High School student from Bellville, died after being struck by a bullet on Veterans Memorial Parkway in Statesboro just after midnight on June 14. Charged with aggravated assault and felony murder, Wilson is scheduled to appear for a bond and first-appearance hearing 9 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Michael Muldrew in Bulloch County Superior Court.
Wilson’s father, Pat Wilson, who is chief of Coweta County Fire and Rescue, and mother, Amanda Wilson, also spoke to reporters and described their son as a loving, well brought-up young man. The Wilsons, a biracial couple, now live in Sharpsburg but previously were Statesboro-area residents, and he worked for the Statesboro Fire Department.
Pat Wilson called his son Marc “my little buddy” and described him as “a strong Christian.”
“Marc, like our other children, were all brought up to be law-abiding citizens,” Pat Wilson said. “We taught them to trust in law enforcement and other legal establishments. However, today, I believe that that trust has been broken. Marc has been painted to be something that he is not.
“He immediately was charged with this heinous crime, and yet he was trying to protect not only his life because the first one he talked about was the life of the passenger in the car with him, his girlfriend,” the defendant’s father said. “That’s what Marc is about. Marc is about that person that was totally defending, totally defending. … I know that this young man has been about love, about peace.”
The night of Hutcheson’s death, Wilson, who lived with his parents, had been in Statesboro with his girlfriend, who is white. It was attorney Francys Johnson, a little later in an answer to a reporter’s question, who gave the defense team’s account of what happened that night.
About 12:30 a.m., Wilson and his girlfriend were returning from picking up a meal at Taco Bell when they were “accosted by a truckload of guys hanging out of the window, waving their arms, possibly armed, yelling phrases like, ‘N…!’, ‘Your lives don’t matter,’ and speaking directly to his girlfriend, that she was a ‘n…. lover,” Johnson asserted.
“They continued to use their truck, which was much larger that Mr. Wilson’s small Ford Focus as a dangerous weapon and attempted to run him off the road,” Johnson continued. “They struck the vehicle with some object, possibly even the truck, before Mr. Wilson took the action that he took in defending his life and the life of his girlfriend.”
Wilson’s parents didn’t talk about alleged details of the incident. But they spoke of their son, alive but in jail, in terms similar to those some of Hutcheson’s relatives used in speaking of her during a press conference June 16, one day before she was buried and he, accompanied by Johnson, surrendered to police.
“As a mother, I know that it must be very hard what the Hutcheson family has had to go through,” Amanda Wilson said Monday. “But I know that had the roles been reversed and Marc not reacted the way he did, we would be mourning the loss of two lives instead of one, and it would be his and his girlfriend’s, and we would have never known what really happened that night.”
At first she had left the screen while fighting back tears. She choked up again as she finished her statement.
“Marc is a loving and caring person, and he has been painted and made to look like somebody that he’s not,” she said, also citing Psalm 27:3 as his favorite, “Though an army camp against me, my heart shall not fear …”
Legal defense team
The legal team assembled in her son’s defense includes attorneys Johnson, from Statesboro and well known for civil rights work; Mawuli Davis of the Davis Bozeman Law Firm of Decatur; Martha Hall, of Hall & Navarro of Springfield and Statesboro; R. Gary Spencer of Atlanta, and Nefertara Clark of Clark & Clark Law Group, Atlanta.
They are receiving support from the Just Georgia Coalition and the Georgia NAACP, whose current state president, the Rev. James “Major” Woodall, formerly of Statesboro, spoke during Monday’s conference.
Mawuli Davis’ firm previously used a “stand your ground” defense in representing Jessie C. Murray Jr., a Doraville man originally charged with shooting and killing a former police officer at a bar in Clayton County. A judge threw out the “stand your ground” argument, but murder charges were eventually dropped and Murray pleaded guilty to a weapons charge in 2017, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
‘Stand your ground’
“Stand your ground” is a legal assertion that a person does not have to flee or retreat from an attack in exercising a right to self-defense.
“What our experience has been is that the immunity that is specifically extended to people who are defending their lives or the lives of others or even their property is not oftentimes extended to black people and people of color, particularly when the alleged victim is white,” Davis said Monday.
He said his firm joined Wilson’s team to help “ensure that what was passed by the legislators will apply to him and will help protect his black life as well.”
Explaining the NAACP’s interest in the case, Woodall said the civil rights organization is concerned about the lack of diversity in Georgia prosecutors’ offices, about “a lack of investigative transparency,” and because the NAACP is “committed to stop public lynchings.”
“In Bulloch County in the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit there is not a single African American district attorney or assistant district attorney,” Woodall said.
He said a more diverse prosecutorial team “would allow there to be an informed prosecutorial discretionary conduct statement made as opposed to what we saw here in the Wilson case.”
When the Statesboro Herald asked whether the legal team will actually mount a stand your ground defense and if this would mean asserting that Wilson accidentally shot Hutcheson while shooting at someone else, Johnson said some details will only become public in court.
The Herald also asked about the origin of assertions that police and media had created a false impression.
“Initially, the Statesboro Police Department provided misleading media reports and allowed suggestions this incident was random gang violence or even BLM (Black Lives Matter) or ANTIFA inspired to foment,” the defense team stated in its press release.
But police never said the shooting was random or gang-related. The Statesboro Herald’s June 15-16 update included a statement from Statesboro Police Capt. Jared Akins that there was “no evidence to indicate it was a random act,” meant to reassure people that a random shooter was not active.
Johnson said “the misleading information” mainly had to do with the Hutcheson family’s press conference at the SPD headquarters and with social media comments that followed.
At that conference, police displayed her picture and allowed the family to “beg for information from the public as relates to who might be responsible for this, when (police) already had interviewed Marc and his girlfriend and Marc had already told them that he would respond to any warrants, and he did,” Johnson said Monday. “I walked him into the police station.”
He called it a “farce of a press conference … deceptive to the community.”
After that, police would release no further information, allowing a “highly racially polarized” atmosphere “to foment,” Johnson said.
Akins acknowledged last week that Wilson had been identified as a suspect by the time the June 16 media event was held. But it was allowed to go forward to generate additional witness information, he said.
“We have interviewed all of the involved parties, including the suspect and his girlfriend, and not all of the facts are consistent, and the proper place to have that presentation of that evidence is in front of the court, not in the world of public opinion,” Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead said Monday.