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Georgia man on trial says highway shooting was self-defense

August 24, 2022 GMT

STATESBORO, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man charged with killing a 17-year-old girl in a highway shooting opened fire from his car in self-defense after the pickup truck in which the girl was a passenger tried to force him off the road, a defense attorney told a jury as his murder trial opened Wednesday.

Marc Wilson, 23, faces life in prison if convicted of felony murder in the death of Haley Hutcheson. His defense attorneys acknowledge that Wilson fired the shot that killed Hutcheson on a bypass circling the southeast Georgia city of Statesboro the night of June 24, 2020.

Wilson attorney Francys Johnson has insisted his client opened fire to fend off an attack as the pickup truck tried to run his car off the road and people inside yelled racist slurs at Wilson, who is biracial. He was driving that night with his then-girlfriend, Emma Rigdon.

“Each shot was about his survival,” Johnson told the trial jury in his opening statement Wednesday. “Each shot was about Emma Rigdon’s survival. Each shot was no different than if they had come to his house.”

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Prosecutor Barclay Black said Wilson could have escaped without firing a handgun in traffic, WTOC-TV reported. One of the bullets he fired went through the truck’s rear window and fatally wounded Hutcheson of Reidsville. She died after her friends rushed her to a hospital.

“No matter what gets thrown around this courtroom, no matter what fingers get pointed at anybody, Haley Hutcheson didn’t do a doggone thing to anybody except get a bullet in the back of her head,” Black told the jury.

Defense attorneys say Wilson of Sharpsburg, 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 and maneuvered to force it off the roadway.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent two days selecting a jury of 12 main members and three alternates to hear the case. Potential jurors were asked if they had ever used racial slurs, whether they owned guns and whether they had ever kept guns in their vehicles.

Superior Court Judge Ronnie Thompson said during jury selection that he expects the trial to last the rest of the week, possibly spilling over into the weekend.

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Rigdon, Wilson’s girlfriend at the time of the shooting, testified at a pretrial hearing in March that the truck swerved at Wilson’s car, putting them in fear of being run off the road, as passengers inside the pickup hung out the windows. But Rigdon said she did not hear anyone using racial slurs.

Wilson spent 20 months in jail before he was released in March on a $100,000 bond. The judge ordered him to remain at his father’s house under house arrest until the trial.