A judge has scheduled a trial in April for a biracial man charged with murder in the 2020 shooting of a teenage girl on a Georgia highway.
Defense attorneys for Marc Wilson say he fired his gun in self-defense on the night of June 14, 2020, when a van tried to run his car off the road as people at the inside shouted racial slurs. A passenger in the truck, Haley Hutcheson, 17, died after being hit by a bullet.
Superior Court Judge Ronnie Thompson has scheduled jury selection in Wilson’s trial to begin April 18, the Statesboro Herald reported. The judge on Friday denied a legal motion by defense attorneys to dismiss the charges based on Wilson’s claim that he was defending his life.
“There is no evidence that the defendant’s vehicle was struck by the truck,” Thompson said in a written order. The judge added: “There is also no evidence that the defendant’s vehicle was damaged by gunfire or objects thrown from the truck.”
Wilson of Sharpsburg was released from jail on $100,000 bond on Friday. He had been jailed for more than 20 months since his arrest for murder and aggravated assault after the shooting. The judge ordered Wilson to remain at his father’s home under house arrest while awaiting trial.
Hutcheson of Reidsville died in a hospital after being shot on a bypass that circles the town of Statesboro in southeast Georgia.
Defense attorneys say Wilson, the son of a black father and white mother, and his white girlfriend had just picked up food from a Taco Bell around 12:30 a.m. when a van pulled up next to Wilson’s much smaller Ford Focus.
During a three-day preliminary hearing that ended on Friday, attorneys for Wilson said young white men in a truck shouted racial slurs at the couple as the driver tried to chase Wilson off the road before that Wilson fires his gun.
“The law in Georgia says there is no obligation to retreat, no obligation to stop on the side of the road, no obligation to call the police, no obligation to pray to God, no obligation to do anything but stand firm and exercise a level of force to include lethal force,” said Francys Johnson, one of Wilson’s attorneys.
Emma Rigdon, Wilson’s girlfriend at the time of the shooting, testified in court that the truck swerved towards Wilson’s car, causing them to fear they would be driven off the road, as passengers in the inside the van were hanging out of the windows. But Rigdon said she hadn’t heard anyone use racial slurs.
Prosecutors noted that Hutcheson was shot through the rear window of the truck, saying it showed the van was not chasing Wilson’s car, WTOC-TV reported.
“All you have to do is slow down,” prosecutor Barclay Black told the judge. “I’m not talking about slamming the brakes and going the other way. Just take your foot off the gas and let them go and it’s all over.
A new judge was assigned to the case last month after Wilson’s lawyers sought the recusal of the original judge after he jailed Johnson for contempt of court last year following a dispute in the room of hearing.
An outside judge reviewed the case and determined that Judge Michael Muldrew, who originally had the case, had done nothing wrong. Still, Thompson was assigned to replace Muldrew to ensure both sides felt they could have a fair trial.