In September of last year I wrote an article about John McNeil. McNeil was convicted and sent to prison for shooting and killing a contractor who was trespassing on his property. McNeil was released from prison on Tuesday after a hard fought battle with justice. He served six years in state prison.
McNeil was convicted of murdering Brian Epp in December of 2005 but he entered a guilty plea to a manslaughter charge to end an appeal pending before the Georgia Supreme Court. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 13 years probation on the the manslaughter charge but he was credited for time served and released.
Mr. McNeal was still the victim of a grave injustice, and now has a tarnished record simply because he choose to do what the patriarch of a household is supposed to do, protect his family.
NAACP chairman Roslyn M. Brock had this to say, “While we would have preferred John to be exonerated based on self-defense, we are thankful that he can return home to be with his two sons and start his life over".
Back in 2006, McNeil was convicted and sentenced to life in prison despite arguing that he shot Epp in self defense. The case sparked national attention over the Stand Your Ground law and how it is applied to Blacks and Whites who use it as their legal defense. Last fall, a judge ruled that he deserved a new trial because his original attorney did not inform jurors they could acquit him if he shot in defense of his home or his son. Stand Your Ground can apply to the defense of someone else as well as himself. McNeil plead guilty to manslaughter instead, helping the prosecution to avoid a costly trial.
Although McNeil is now a free man, what should be an occasion for celebration is bitter sweet because days before he was released his wife lost her battle with breast cancer. Up until the time of her death she was a tireless advocate for her husband, and there is no doubt that she now rests in peace knowing that her efforts to free him paid off.