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Marc Wilson Was Just Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

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Mark Wilson – the black man convicted of shooting a 17-year-old in Georgia, despite self-defense allegations – will spend a decade in prison.

Judge Ronnie Thompson issued the maximum sentence for manslaughter on Tuesday, although Wilson will be credited with the time he spent awaiting trial. The decision ends more than two years of litigation in a case widely seen as a test of black Americans’ right to “stand their ground.”

The 23-year-old Georgian national was convicted on August 31 for the murder of Halle Hutchison. The judge decided not to invoke a provision in Georgia law allowing him to sentence Wilson as if the charge were a misdemeanor rather than a felony, as many Wilson supporters had hoped.

Wilson said he was harassed, called racist, and nearly got off the road in his car by three male teenagers in a pickup truck on June 14, 2020. Fearing for his life and that of his then-girlfriend who was sitting in the passenger seat, Wilson fired his legally owned pistol on the truck hoping to scare them.

But as he found out a day later, one of his three shots hit Hutchison, who had not known he was sitting in the car, and killed him. He eventually turned himself in to the police and was charged with premeditated murder and aggravated assault.

“I would like you to remember that Mark Wilson saved my life that night,” Wilson’s ex-girlfriend Emma Rigdon told the judge on Tuesday. “I really think if he didn’t do what he did, we would have lost our lives that night. Mark is not the reason Hailey isn’t here.”

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Georgia is one of the 36 so-called “standing up” states where a person can use lethal force when they reasonably fear for their life. Wilson’s defense attorneys attempted to claim the defense in the lead up to the trial, but the effort ultimately failed, leading to questions about the fairness of the law. A 2020 American Civil Rights Commission study found that between 2005 and 2010, only 11 percent of your cases involving a black shooter were deemed justified, compared to 45 percent of cases involving a black victim and a white shooter.

The disparity in law enforcement has been widely criticized for nearly a decade, especially after the acquittal of George Zimmerman following the shooting and murder of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman claimed self-defense because he feared for his life, though he did initiate contact with the 17-year-old.

In the weeks prior to Wilson’s sentencing, his supporters publicly opposed his conviction verdict. For example, they said, prosecutors brought a charge of manslaughter to secure a conviction in the later stages of the trial. While Wilson was eventually found not guilty on both the felony murder and the aggravated assault charges he originally faced, the manslaughter charge was brought before the jury during deliberations.

They also argued that the judge failed to provide the jury with all the charges least likely to be considered. They say the jury should have been allowed to consider the misdemeanor of manslaughter, which carries a penalty of only one year in prison.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a disappointing outcome for many of Wilson’s supporters, the case may not be over yet. Wilson’s chief defense attorney, Frances Johnson, told VICE News last week that he and his colleagues are prepared to appeal to a higher court if Wilson is sentenced for an extended period.

Political pressure has continued since the first day of Mark Wilson’s execution for the murder of Haley Hutchison. “We will continue to fight for this young man at every stage,” Johnson said.

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