BALTIMORE – The North Carolina and Georgia State Conferences of the NAACP, in conjunction with the national NAACP, will hold press conference and a rally tomorrow to address the Georgia State Supreme Court’s wrongful conviction of John McNeil, a Black business owner and former resident of Cobb County, Georgia.
In 2006, McNeil was sentenced to life in prison in the death of Brian Epp. Mr. McNeil was defending his family at his home from Mr. Epp, a trespasser on McNeil’s property.
The case has taken on a racial dynamic as Mr. Epp was caucasian.
In calling for a reexamination of the case, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said, “ Unfortunately, this court and prosecutor - who overruled local police to pursue this case – is more influenced by Georgia’s legacy of racism than current law. This appears to be opportunism on the part of the prosecutor. I find it curious that no white man is serving time under similar circumstances in the state.”
A pre-rally press conference will be held at 11:00 a.m. in front of the Old Cobb County Courthouse Building at 30 Waddell Street in Marietta, Georgia. Speakers will include NAACP President Jealous, Rev. William Barber and Ed Dubose, the presidents of the Georgia and North Carolina NAACP chapters respectively, and Anita McNeil – wife of John McNeil.
McNeil shot Epp on the front lawn of McNeil’s suburban Atlanta home following a verbal altercation. During the trial, McNeil testified that Epp charged him with what McNeil believed was a box cutter, and that he shot Epp in self defense after multiple warnings. Police confirm a weapon was found in Epp’s pocket at the scene. The prosecution did not refute McNeil’s claims that Epp was the aggressor in the encounter.
Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, in her powerful dissent, concluded that “no rational trier of fact could have found the absence of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Echoing Jealous’ statement, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, said, “Chief Justice Sears’ dissent 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. The Georgia Court’s unjust verdict against John McNeil must be reconsidered. If it can happen to a successful businessman in Cobb County like him, it could happen to any of us.”
“After reviewing the evidence in John McNeil’s case, I am convinced Mr. McNeil’s only crime is that he is black,” said Ed Dubose. “We will fight for justice for John McNeil and his family until they are reunited.”