Georgia man claims shooting was self-defense, but was it?

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

The state of Georgia is very friendly to those who use a firearm to defend themselves. Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine are laws here and were long before constitutional carry was passed.

However, that doesn’t mean anything and everything counts as self-defense.

That’s at the heart of a case involving a shooting, where the driver is claiming self-defense when he shot another driver.

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.”

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.

First, Black should know that whether Wilson could escape or not is irrelevant. Georgia is a Stand Your Ground state, which means there’s no duty to retreat. If his life was in danger, he had no obligation to run.

However, I find it interesting that he’s taking that position in this case.

The reason is that being run off the road, while something that would piss me off, isn’t something I’d see as likely to result in my death, just justifying the use of a firearm in self-defense. Sure, I can imagine some scenarios where that might change, such as where there’s a steep embankment or on a bridge or something, but for most roads? I don’t see it.

Further, Rigdon claims that while the vehicle swerved toward them to run them off the road, she never heard any racial slurs. That is likely important since the slurs would be suggestive that it was an intentional and malicious act possibly intending harm.

This is going to be an interesting case to follow, in part because so little is actually clear. However, unless there is some compelling reason why Wilson would believe he’d be killed if run off the road, I don’t think he’s going to walk on this one.

Then again, it also appears Wilson offered contradictory statements to police, which won’t help his case at all.

Look, the self-defense laws are there to protect people acting in self-defense. However, you can’t just shoot at people because they’re being jackwagons. Based on what’s public in this case, it sounds like that’s precisely what Wilson did, and if that’s the case, he’s going away for a long time.