After a meeting with John McNeil at the Macon State Prison in Georgia on Monday, Sept. 10, the NAACP reiterated their demand for justice in his case at a press conference at the State Capitol. John McNeil was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for defending his family and himself at his own home. During the visit, the delegation, which included NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP Georgia State Conference President Edward DuBose and NAACP North Carolina State Conference President Rev. William Barber, met with prison officials to inform them of this urgent nature of the advanced stage of his wife’s conditions and the fact that her worsening health and medical condition have prohibited her from visiting John in more than two years. “With the return of his wife’s cancer and the discovery that it has spread, we are redoubling our efforts and exploring every possible avenue for hastening the correction of this grave mistake by the justice system and the freeing of John so that he can reunite with his family,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. In 2006, John McNeil returned to his home in Cobb County to protect his son from Brian Epp, an armed trespasser on his property. After calling the police and firing a warning shot into the ground as Epp approached him near the back door of his home, McNeil shot and killed Epp, who was White. Despite the investigating officers' concluding that McNeil did not commit a crime, 274 days later, Cobb County district attorney charged McNeil with murder.Despite the fact Georgia, a leading gun rights state, has always followed the “Castle Doctrine” that gives property owners the right to protect themselves with a weapon, without a duty to retreat, if they feel threatened on their own property, McNeil was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. “In visiting with John McNeil today, I am convinced even more now, than ever before that John McNeil should be free,” stated Edward DuBose, Georgia NAACP State Conference president. “If the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law does not protect John McNeil, then ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws everywhere should be abolished. The Georgia State Conference of the NAACP will continue to fight until true justice has been served and John McNeil is free. We remain prayerful for his wife and family.” “John McNeil is a beloved and honorable son, husband, and father from North Carolina who has been wrongfully and unjustly incarcerated in Georgia,” stated North Carolina NAACP State Conference President Rev. William J Barber II. “Throughout his life, he did what is right for his family and community but a district attorney did him wrong. For most, it is impossible to believe that a man defending himself his teenage son his property from an armed aggressor, could be convicted of a crime. Unfortunately a man’s home is not his castle if that man is Black in Georgia.” “It hurts to leave this good man in prison today but seeing him and feeling his spirit strengthens our resolve to work until justice is set free and returns NC,” stated Barber.Last month, John McNeil filed a writ for Habeas corpus relief arguing that his conviction lacked sufficient evidence, among other things. His petition is pending before the Baldwin County, Ga., Superior Court.
The NAACP recently sent out a petition urging Georgia Attorney General Olens not to pursue an appeal should the judge overturn McNeil’s verdict and sentence. The petition already has over 12,000 signatures.
Other speakers at the press conference included former Atlanta City Council member/civil rights activist Derrick Boazman, Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials President Tyrone Brooks, Executive Director of the Georgia Black Constructors Association Bill Cannon, State President Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Rev. Major Mostellar and Founder/President Vote Out Loud Erica Thomas.
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