The Cost of Self-Defense: The John McNeil Story

For the past five years, a Georgia business owner has sat in jail for doing what many of us would - defending himself and his family against a trespasser on his property.

Brian Epp trespassed onto John McNeil's Cobb County, Georgia property in December 2005. McNeil testified that he asked Epp - who was in possession of a boxcutter - to leave his property multiple times before firing in self-defense. Police later confirmed Epp indeed had a boxcutter, while testimony indicated that Epp threatened McNeil's son with the boxcutter. Prosecution did not refute McNeil’s claim that Epp was the aggressor in the encounter.

274 days after the incident, despite the fact that police had ruled the incident as self-defense, the prosecutor charged McNeil in the shooting death of Epp. And although Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears concluded that no rational trier of fact could disprove McNeil’s self‐defense claim, John McNeil was sentenced in 2006 to life in prison.

A leading gun rights state, Georgia's "Castle Doctrine" allows individuals to defend themselves with a weapon if they feel threatened on their own property without having to wait for the situation to escalate. Yet, in the case of McNeil, the cost of defending his property has been his family and his freedom.

As champions of justice, the Georgia NAACP State Conference has joined together with the national NAACP and the North Carolina State Conference to let the state of Georgia know that an act of self-defense should not cost a man his life, and reunite McNeil with his family.

Read more on the John McNeil case here, and text JOHN to 62227 (NAACP) to receive updates on the John McNeil case.