William Marcus ‘Marc’ Wilson remains in jail without a new bond 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.
Previously jailed for more than 20 months, Wilson, now 23, had been out on conditional “house arrest” bond since March. But Superior Court Judge Ronald K. “Ronnie” Thompson remanded him back to the Bulloch County Jail immediately after a local jury on Aug. 31 returned a guilty verdict on that single manslaughter charge. Wilson was transferred the next day to the Jenkins County Jail, which often houses Bulloch inmates after trial.
The trial jury had found him not guilty of all other charges, and indeed, acquitted him of all the charges originally alleged in the November 2020 grand jury indictment. In contrast to the indictment’s allegation of “felony murder” – a conviction for which would have brought a life sentence, implying at least 30 years prison time before parole – involuntary manslaughter, while in this case also a felony, carries a sentencing range of one to 10 years. It was the least severe of the three “lesser” homicide charge options that Thompson, after input from the prosecutors and defense attorneys, included in instructions to the jury.
The other possibilities were second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Second-degree murder, a rare charge in Georgia applicable only when there is a victim under 18 years old, carries a sentencing range of 10-30 years.
Voluntary manslaughter, prescribed for homicides that would otherwise be murder except that the killer acted from “a serious provocation” resulting in “a sudden, violent and irresistible passion,” carries a sentencing range of one to 20 years.
But, consistent with state law and usual courtroom practice, the sentencing ranges were not mentioned during the trial. In fact, Thompson stated that the jurors were not to consider punishment.
Sentencing in a case like this is the judge’s responsibility, and for Tuesday’s 2 p.m. hearing, Thompson asked to receive any statements of aggravating circumstances that might be presented by the District Attorney’s Office and statements of mitigating circumstances from the defense.
Wilson’s attorneys have noted that he had no prior criminal record and argue that he lived an exemplary life prior to the tragic June 2020 encounter.
The crime of which he was convicted, involuntary manslaughter at the felony level, means that someone while committing “an unlawful act other than a felony” caused the death of another person “without any intention to do so.”
Wilson’s defense attorneys – Francys Johnson, Martha Hall, Nefertara Clark and Muwali Davis – sought to have the misdemeanor level of involuntary manslaughter also included in the options for the jury.
Thompson did not include the misdemeanor option in his instructions, and Johnson in remarks to reporters after the verdict asserted that this was a “significant error” that occurred during the trial. If the defense makes an appeal of the conviction, that would come later, to a higher court.
A misdemeanor conviction would have carried a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment, less time than Wilson already spent in jail awaiting bond and trial.
Misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter means that someone caused a death “without intending to do so” while committing “a lawful” (in other words not illegal) “act in an unlawful manner.”
Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Daphne Totten, also interviewed Aug. 31 after the verdict, said she had opposed inclusion of the misdemeanor charge because prosecutors didn’t believe, either before or after the verdict, that Wilson had acted in self-defense.
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, shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday, June 14, 2020, one bullet struck Hutcheson 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.
The fatal bullet entered the cab of the truck through the middle of the back glass, and another lead bullet core was recovered from the left-front tire of truck, as Statesboro police detectives testified.
During the trial and in earlier hearings, Wilson’s attorneys argued 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.
But there was no testimony from witnesses, and no assertions by the attorneys, that Hutcheson herself said or did anything toward the car’s occupants.
Originally Wilson sought immunity from prosecution under Georgia’s “stand your ground” law. Thompson rejected his immunity claim after a hearing in March but acknowledged that an argument of self-defense could still be used as the basis of his defense at trial.
March 4 was also when Thompson set the bond at $100,000, including at least $20,000 cash, for Wilson’s release with conditions awaiting trial.