Jury to decide: Did racist attack provoke bypass shooting?
STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) — A jury began deliberating murder charges Tuesday in the trial of a biracial man who says he was trying to fend off a racist attack on a Georgia highway when he fired a gun into a pickup truck and fatally shot a 17-year-old girl riding in the back seat.
Marc Wilson, 23, faces life in prison if he’s convicted of felony murder in the killing of Haley Hutcheson. Jury deliberations began Tuesday afternoon after prosecutors and defense attorneys made their closing arguments in Bulloch County Superior Court.
Defense attorneys acknowledged that Wilson of Sharpsburg fired the shot that killed Hutcheson on a bypass circling the southeast Georgia city of Statesboro the night of June 24, 2020. But they insisted Wilson was justified in opening fire in self-defense.
“Mr. Wilson did what any reasonable person would do under the circumstances” to save the lives of himself and his girlfriend, defense attorney Francys Johnson told the jury.
Prosecutors said Wilson had no justification to fire a handgun in traffic and could have escaped if he was being harassed by another driver. One of the bullets he fired went through the truck’s rear window and struck Hutcheson of Reidsville in the head. She died after her friends rushed her to a hospital.
“He introduced the firearm, he introduced the bullets,” prosecutor Barclay Black told the jury. “He committed the aggravated assault … to cause her death, which makes it felony murder.”
Wilson, the son of a Black father and white mother, and his white girlfriend had just picked up food from a Taco Bell about 12:30 a.m. when the pickup truck pulled alongside Wilson’s much smaller Ford Focus. Wilson told police the pickup truck tried to run his car off the road as white teenagers inside yelled racist slurs.
“Me and my girlfriend were very scared that night,” Wilson told police in a recorded interview played for the trial jury. He said that when the truck kept swerving toward his car, “I didn’t know what else to do, so I grabbed my, uh, my piece and I shot under the vehicle.”
Three shell casings that police recovered from the scene were matched to Wilson’s gun, investigators said during four days of trial testimony.
The driver of the pickup and two passengers who took the witness stand denied threatening or otherwise provoking Wilson. They also acknowledged that they had been drinking that night, though they denied being drunk.
“During the course of six or seven hours, I had at max six beers,” the truck’s driver, Mason Glisson, testified. “How drunk can you be?”
One of the truck’s passengers, Luke Conley, declined to testify by invoking his Fifth Amendment right against giving self-incriminating testimony. He has been charged with misdemeanor obstruction after police said he gave investigators conflicting information about the shooting.
Rigon, Wilson’s girlfriend at the time, testified that she didn’t hear any racial slurs before the shooting. But she recalled being frightened when the pickup truck “started swerving into our lane.”
“It was going up and coming back to stay right there with us,” Rigdon said. “I remember we were over on the rumble strips. That’s when Mark shot, to kind of say, ‘Hey, leave us alone.'”