ATLANTA -The North Carolina and Georgia State Conferences of the NAACP, joined by the National NAACP, held a press conference tomorrow on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol to address the wrongful conviction of John McNeil by the Georgia system of ‘justice.’ The two State Conferences and the National NAACP will visit McNeil at the Hancock State Prison prior to the press conference and will release the powerful dissent of the Chief Justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court in Mr. McNeil’s case.
“How is it that in America, a person can receive a life sentence for defending his life and that of his child, from an armed attacker?” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “The conviction and sentencing of John McNeil is a case the courts must reexamine. As American citizens we have the right to defend our homes, our lives and our families without the threat of excessive jail sentences. We stand with the NC and GA NAACP State Conferences as they demand justice for John McNeil,” concluded Jealous.
John McNeil, a father protecting his teenage son was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in November 2006 for killing Brian Epp, a white trespasser wielding a box cutter on McNeil’s property. The facts of the case, supported by a Georgia Chief Justice, found that Epp’s, an armed trespasser on McNeil’s property threatened McNeil’s son with a box cutter. According to eyewitness accounts, the armed trespasser attacked Mr. McNeil with the box cutter. McNeil warned him to stop and fired a warning shot into the ground to no avail. When the trespasser lunged toward McNeil with the box cutter in his hand, McNeil fired one shot, which was fatal.
“Sir Edward Coke, an English jurist of the 17th Century once said, ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, NC NAACP State Conference President. “In Georgia, however, a black man’s home is nothing. What happened to John McNeil in the Georgia courts is a cynical miscarriage of justice that must be overturned. His conviction and life sentence should convince every person of goodwill that we are sentenced to a life of struggle to dismantle the racism deeply rooted in our criminal justice system. If it can happen to John McNeil, it could happen to any of us” concluded Rev. Barber.
“After reviewing all the evidence in the John McNeil case, I am convinced that McNeil’s only crime is that of being Black,” stated Ed Dubose, NAACP Georgia State Conference President. “The fact that a Black homeowner, on his own property, defending his son from a trespasser wielding a box cutter could be given a life sentence is a grim reminder of how unequal the scales of justice really are. We will continue in the fight for Mr. McNeil and his family until justice prevails,” Dubose concluded.
We trust that when the public learns the details of the evidence as recited by the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court there will be a national and international movement for a new trial for Mr. McNeil.