John McNeil, black homeowner, fighting for freedom after 2006 conviction after fatally shooting white man, Brian Epp, during altercation on his front lawn in 2005, in Kennesaw, Ga.

John McNeil serving life sentence for shooting Brian Epp (NAACP)

The NAACP is rallying to help John McNeil, a black homeowner who is serving a life sentence for fatally shooting Brian Epp, who is white, on the front lawn of his Kennesaw, Ga., home in December 2005. McNeil claims he acted in self-defense, but was convicted in November 2006, by a Cobb County jury, made up of mostly whites, with two blacks.

“If McNeil weren’t black and Epp weren’t white, this case never would have been prosecuted and he would never have been convicted,” NAACP national president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said before the press conference and rally of about 30 supporters and family members in front of a large banner that read: “Free John McNeil.”

According to testimony at trial, Epp confronted McNeil in McNeil’s front yard in a dispute over a home Epp had been building for McNeil. Epp appeared to have a knife in his pocket and was about to charge McNeil, who had a pistol and fired a warning shot into the ground.

According to testimony Epp rushed McNeil anyway and McNeil shot him in the head. During trial, said NAACP officials, at least two witnesses testified that when Cobb County police arrived they told McNeil it appeared to be a clear case of self defense and he wouldn’t be charged. Source: AJC

McNeil tried unsuccessfully to appeal his case before the Georgia Supreme Court in 2008, and he hopes now by publicizing his plight the State Board of Pardons and Paroles or Governor Nathan Deal will free him. Um, considering they wanted to send a mother to prison for jaywalking that led to the death of her son by a drunk driver, there’s a slim chance that Governor Nathan Deal will give him the time of day. Still, we can only hope if this man truly acted in self-defense, he will be released at some point and not have to spend the rest of his life in prison. It is time to re-open this case and re-examine each aspect carefully. If this was a case of self-defense, then this man should not be sitting behind bars for the rest of his life. Kennesaw gives homeowners the right to bear arms to protect their property. If Brian Epp threatened John McNeil’s son with a boxcutter, guess what? He had a right to defend his child and his home.

In the final analysis, I would love to hear from those two black jurors on how they reached the verdict. Were they cajoled or did they believe he acted recklessly and killed this man. How can you explain the acquittal of Casey Anthony in the murder of her daughter and this man who gets a life sentence for protecting his turf? There are two kinds of justice in Georgia, one for blacks and Latinos and one for whites. We’ve come a long way, but it seems like the ghosts of discrimination still roam freely.