State News

NC NAACP rallies for Wilson man in prison in Georgia

Posted June 15, 2012
Updated February 12, 2013

— The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP is speaking out in support of a man from Wilson who, they say, has been wrongly imprisoned for shooting a man in self-defense at his home in Cobb County, Ga.

John McNeil is serving a life prison sentence there for the December 2005 shooting death of Brian Epp, who, McNeil says, charged at him with a knife in his driveway during a shouting match.

Local police agreed that McNeil acted in self-defense and did not arrest McNeil, but the local prosecutor still pursued the case.

"John McNeil was afraid for his life and his son's life, and he did what any father would do," state NAACP President Rev. William Barber said Friday at a news conference outside the Wilson County Courthouse.

The NAACP says Epp was armed and had threatened McNeil's son minutes before the shooting.

McNeil, who wasn't home when he learned of the threat, called 911 to report it and raced home, where Epp confronted him.

He refused twice to leave McNeil's property and continued to advance, despite McNeil firing a warning shot into the ground, according to the NAACP.

John McNeil NC NAACP rallies for Wilson man in prison

"It seems, in Georgia, a black man's home is not his castle, and his home means nothing before the law," Barber said.

Two white police officers and a white witness testified on McNeil's behalf that the shooting was in self-defense, and a Georgia Supreme Court judge agreed in his dissenting opinion in a ruling that upheld the conviction, the NAACP says.

"What happened to John McNeil is an obscenity to justice," Barber said.

Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head says he took the case to a 23-member grand jury because he felt there were too many unanswered questions about the case. Ultimately, a jury found him guilty.

"They all believed it was murder," Head said. "We have a system, and the system said he was guilty."

McNeil's family, which now lives in Wilson, asked the NAACP to get involved.

"John had every right to protect himself, and Georgia law was on our side," his wife, Anita McNeil said. "But John is not free."

She is now battling cancer, as well as fighting for her husband's release.

"My focus, my drive and my passion is getting justice and freedom for John," she said. "We have not lost faith nor hope that John will be free. Any of us can be John McNeil."

23 Comments

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  • piene2 Jun 18, 5:59 p.m.

    "By the comments here I see there is not much change in the southern white mentality. BTW I am white."

    I much prefer the bigots of the sixties to the new crop now. They at least had honesty. The bigots of today do claim to be enlightened which we all know is total horse hockey. The bigots of the sixties wore their white robes and hoods proudly. Though they did wear hoods, we knew who they were. They did not skulk in the shadows, they stood proudly in the light of day. In their own twisted way they had honor and integrity that the current bigots do not possess. Though I do not in any way indorse the actions of the bigots of the sixties, I must acknowledge their integrity.

  • loprestw Jun 18, 2:37 p.m.

    If the NAACP is defending you, you are without a doubt, GUILTY!

  • not my real name Jun 18, 2:37 p.m.

    more of the same double standard.

  • kermit60 Jun 18, 11:58 a.m.

    affirmativediversity; Totally agree. Seems like he wants the rules to change based on the color you are.

  • getajobubum Jun 15, 7:00 p.m.

    Leave it to the NAACP and the ignorant Barber to make this a race issue...isn't that all they do?

  • SaveEnergyMan Jun 15, 6:42 p.m.

    The facts presented in this story sure sound like an open and shut acquittal. However, a jury of 12 still convicted him and I wonder what evidence they used. I don't buy the whole racism thing. WRAL, can you provide more from the prosecution than "too many unanswered questions".

  • ims1924 Jun 15, 6:28 p.m.

    Why is it that we havn't heard anything from Georgia's NAACP? Perhaps they work behind the scene instead of going out of state to beat their drums for attention. I really can't think of anything that Barber has done for what he calls HIS PEOPLE.

  • affirmativediversity Jun 15, 6:21 p.m.

    Local police agreed that McNeil acted in self-defense and did not arrest McNeil, but the local prosecutor still pursued the case.

    "John McNeil was afraid for his life and his son's life, and he did what any father would do," state NAACP President Rev. William Barber said Friday at a news conference outside the Wilson County Courthouse.

    ----------------------

    So Rev Barber are you trying to tell us that you've changed your position on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin incident?

    In other words are you now saying that the use of deadly force is appropriate when a person feels threatened or is in immediate danger of physical harm?

    So, let me get this straight...its NOW okay with you for someone to use a gun to defend themselves even if they know, or suspect, the person they are going to shot does not?

    Some clarification might be in order here!

  • kjackson47 Jun 15, 6:05 p.m.

    For once i agree with something they stand behind but not because hes black but thathe was protecting his family . I would take out anybody threatening my family and had a feeling they would fulfill their threat

  • davidgnews Jun 15, 5:29 p.m.

    Redstarlean: Feel free to leave at anytime." Armando de Cabana Boy"

    What an utterly nonintelligent response to an otherwise truthful statement.

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