(Washington, DC) – Today, the NAACP held a press conference to discuss the latest decision in the John McNeil case and next steps to secure his freedom. On Wednesday, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens chose to appeal the court ruling that granted John McNeil’s habeas corpus petition.
“Some people say that this is about a black man in Georgia, but a black man in Georgia is also a man in America,” stated NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “This is not a disgrace that has been done to black people alone. This is a disgrace that has been done to America.”
On September 25th, a Georgia Superior Court judge granted McNeil’s petition for habeas corpus based on ineffective counsel. The judge noted that McNeil’s trial attorney “failed to request charges based on the theories of defense of habitation and/or defense of property.” Attorney General Olens had until October 26 to appeal the court’s decision.
The NAACP recently distributed a petition urging Olens not to pursue an appeal; the petition has more than 21,000 signatures.
“I stand here today, because John is not a murderer,” said McNeil’s wife, Anita. “He is a homeowner. He is a homeowner that lost his right to protect his home, his child. He is an American who lost the right to protect himself on his own property.”
In 2006, John McNeil was convicted of shooting Brian Epp. While on McNeil’s property. Epp threatened McNeil’s son with a knife and charged at John. Investigating officers concluded that McNeil did not commit a crime, yet nearly one year after the incident, he was charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison.
McNeil’s wife has since developed cancer and, until recently, was unable to visit her husband.
“The case is emotional, but our emotions are in the facts,” stated Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina State Conference. “The overarching truth is that anyone that studies the empirical evidence will join us in the movement to free John McNeil.”
“When a black man clearly defending his family and himself from an attack on his own property is convicted of homicide and sentenced to a lifetime in prison, we know that the shield of justice is riddled with holes,” said Chairman Roslyn Brock, NAACP Board of Directors. “While we are saddened by this turn of events, our resolve to secure John’s freedom remains unwavering.”
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.