The state of Georgia is one of many states with Stand Your Ground laws in effect. These laws mean you don’t have to try and run from an attacker. You can, instead, respond to protect your life without putting it at greater risk trying to get away.
However, there are those who claim that such laws are a one-way street and that they don’t apply to everyone equally.
A prime example of that just happened in Georgia, where the family of a man convicted of murder is saying the man’s Stand Your Ground defense wasn’t effective because he was black.
William “Marc” Wilson was recently convicted of involuntary manslaughter for a shooting that he says was in self-defense against a racist attack on a Georgia highway, and his family and lawyers say the case reveals a racial double standard for “stand your ground” laws.
“If you put me in Marc’s shoes, there’s no way that I would’ve been prosecuted,” Wilson’s cousin, Chance Pridgen, who is white, told Yahoo News. “Odds are I would’ve been given a medal — probably gotten a parade in my name. It’s unreal how he was treated just because he’s a little bit more tan than I am.”
Wilson, a biracial Black man, 21 years old at the time of the shooting on June 14, 2020, fired his legal handgun at a pickup truck of white teens who he says were yelling racial slurs at him and trying to run him and his white girlfriend off the road near Statesboro, Ga. One of those bullets struck and killed 17-year-old Haley Hutcheson, who was in the back seat of the truck.
Except, had Mr. Pridgen done the same thing, he likely would also have been prosecuted.
You see, we covered this case previously, including the Stand Your Ground defense. The problem is that it just doesn’t hold water.
You see, for one thing, running someone off the road isn’t an inherently violent act that one could reasonably interpret as a threat to one’s life. Sure, if you try to do so where there’s no embankment, only a cliff, things might be different, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Looking at Google Maps satellite images of the general area, it appears that the area in question has relatively flat embankments and not even a lot of trees close to the road where one might fear hitting one.
In other words, if Hutcheson and her friends were trying to run him off the road and screaming racial slurs at him–his then-girlfriend claims she heard no such slurs, for the record–then they’re guilty of being jerk teenagers who probably should have their licenses revoked, not someone trying to kill another.
And that’s why Wilson’s claims of Stand Your Ground didn’t fly.
But what about his race? Could that have played a factor? Well, hypothetically, it could. However, there’s no evidence it did in this case, nor that it does historically.
John Lott covered this a while back, actually. He was rebutting some data presented by the media, but had been misinterpreted.
Surprisingly, the Tribune never examined if the data they collected might explain the different conviction rates.
Doing so actually reverses their claim. Everything else equal, in cases with only one person killed, killing a black person, rather than a white person, increases the defendant’s odds of being convicted, though the result is not statistically significant. If you also include multiple murder cases, killing a black person increases the chances of conviction even more.
These regressions also show that white defendants are more likely to be convicted than black defendants, and both effects are significantly greater than for Hispanics.
Now, understand that this is older data–this piece dates from 2013–there’s little reason to suspect anything has changed since then.
So, when all else is equal, black people and white people evoking Stand Your Ground defenses seem to be about average, which also discounts the racism argument.
Look, what happened here probably has more to do with Wilson having heard the media talk about Stand Your Ground rather than actually trying to understand it. We’ve had countless people claim the laws essentially legalize murder, that all you have to do is claim you were scared and you’d walk.
Well, if that’s what you have been told, then try it in court and it doesn’t fly, I wouldn’t be surprised at you and your family being upset. However, the problem is not understanding the law, not some inherent racism in how the law is used.
Stand Your Ground laws apply to all. They just don’t apply when there’s no justifiable fear of death or bodily harm.