John McNeil’s Habeas Petition Granted; NAACP Urges Georgia Attorney General Not to Appeal

(Atlanta, GA) – On September, 25th, A Georgia Superior Court Judge granted John McNeil’s petition for habeas corpus.  John was convicted of killing Brian Epp despite evidence that he was defending himself and his family on his own property.   The court’s decision concludes that John received ineffective counsel during his trial when his attorney, among other things, “failed to request charges based on the theories of defense of habitation and/or defense of property.” View the habeas order here: http://action.naacp.org/page/-/images/press/Order%20Habeas_John%20McNeil.pdf.

“I know we still have a journey in front of us, but today we smile, for we have won,” stated John’s wife Anita McNeil, who recently was able to visit John for the first time in nearly two years. “We are thankful first to GOD and then to the judge.  She looked at the case and saw it for what it is.  We are thankful to Ben Jealous, Ed DuBose, Rev Dr. William Barber, Al McSurely, Dr. Niaz Kasravi and the entire NAACP.  We also so grateful for Frank Jones, the committee to Free John McNeil, and our attorney Mark Yurachek for all the hard work they have put in to this point. We also thank all the people who have stood up and are standing up to support us. We will continue our fight and we won't stop until we have freedom for John.” 

Georgia’s Attorney General has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision.  The NAACP has sent out a petition urging Georgia Attorney General Olens not to pursue an appeal in John’s McNeil’s case. The petition already has over 14,567 signatures.

"This is the first step towards righting the wrong the Cobb County made when it prosecuted a father for defending his family on his own property," stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.  "We are urging the state to not appeal this decision. John has spent years in prison, separated from the family he protected, because a district attorney decided to prosecute John 274 days after two police detectives ruled his case self defense.  The NAACP commends John’s attorney, his family and our Georgia and North Carolina State Conferences for all they have done and are doing to ensure Georgia rights this grave miscarriage of justice.”

Earlier this month, Jealous, along with NAACP Georgia State Conference President Edward DuBose and NAACP North Carolina State Conference President Rev. William Barber, met with John McNeil in prison to discuss the case and their efforts to secure his freedom.

“The Georgia State Conference NAACP is content with the decision by the court,” stated DuBose. “We recognize that this is the first of many steps in the journey towards reuniting John McNeil with his family.  We are confident that the decision by the court will serve as a battle cry for all people of good will throughout the state and the country in calling for Georgia to free John McNeil.”

“This is a great step by the judge to acknowledge something went wrong in the case and conviction of John McNeil,” stated Rev. William J Barber II, President of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.  “We hope the state of Georgia will see the error of its way and admit they have wrongfully convicted a good man who only engaged in justified self defense. We call on everyone who believes in justice to join us in a massive mobilization and moral outcry to free John McNeil!”

 “It is a very good day,” stated Mark Yurachek, John McNeil’s attorney. “I am thrilled with the Court's decision and very, very, happy for John and his family.

In 2006, John McNeil returned to his home in Cobb County, Georgia to protect his son from Brian Epp, an armed trespasser on his property.  After calling the police and firing a warning shot into the ground as Epp approached him  in the driveway, John McNeil shot and killed Epp, who was white.

Despite the investigating officers' concluding that McNeil did not commit a crime, 274 days later, Cobb County District Attorney charged McNeil with murder.  During the trial, the detectives who investigated the shooting both testified on behalf of  John McNeil.

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Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors. The NAACP is a non-partisan 501c3 organization.

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