STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV)- A high profile murder case involving a young black man who police say shot and killed 17-year-old Haley Hucheson is putting Georgia’s law to the test.
The accused, Marcus Wilson, and his legal team plan to use the controversial ‘Stand your Ground Defense’ to prove his innocence.
“It’s another black life that could possibly be the next victim of a public lynching,” said Reverend James Woodall, President of NAACP Georgia.
Woodall says Statesboro authorities should have been more transparent from the start of the investigation.
“When we first heard about the case all we heard was a black man shot a white woman,” said Woodall, “that’s literally it, nobody said anything about him being the one who was chased down from the taco bell and called the n-word.”
Woodall says when Wilson shot Hucheson he was acting in self defense. Wilson’s attorney says prior to the shooting, a group of men Hucheson was with were yelling racial slurs at his client.
He says Wilson only fired his gun out of sheer terror when Hucheson and the men got in their car and tried running him off the road. His legal team says evidence will prove that when he shot into their Chevy Silverado, he was standing his ground.
“When we talk about the engagement and the interaction between black and brown people in the criminal legal process this young man did everything the law affords him the opportunity to do,” said Woodall.
Experts say the language of the law is color blind. They say a successful defense will boil down to whether Wilson’s team can prove his fear was reasonable.
“That in turn will be dependent on the number of people he was confronting or perhaps, were confronting him and particularly their demeanor,” said Ronald Carlson, Callaway Chair of Law Emeritus at the University of Georgia.
Carlson has been part of the University of Georgia’s School of Law faculty since 1984. He’s authored fourteen books on evidence, trial practice and criminal procedure, in addition to professional articles in journals across the country.
Carlson says he’s seen the stand your ground defense used by black and white people. He says he’s also seen it fail for both parties
“I think public interest groups are looking at this case to see if the claim by the defendant here gets as much seriousness and as much consideration as it does in other stand your ground cases,” said Carlson.
Leaders throughout the state, including Savannah Mayor Van Johnson are pushing to repeal the stand your ground law. As its written here in Georgia, a person does not have a duty to retreat when threatened.
“We’re looking at situations through an equity lens,” said Mayor Johnson.”That relates not only to police interactions with people, particularly people of color, but also laws that we have that might disproportionately affect one group of people more than another,” he said.
Critics say the Georgia statute promotes vigilantism, particularly against people of color. Those in support of the statute say it protects gun owners and helps perfect their defense.