(The Root) — NAACP officials met in Arlington, Va., on Friday to discuss the newest decision by Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens in the case of John McNeil, a black Georgia man convicted of homicide after shooting a white trespasser in 2005.
Activist Anita McNeil, the wife of John McNeil, was joined by NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous, NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock, Georgia NAACP President Edward Dubose and North Carolina NAACP President Dr. William J. Barber II during a press conference denouncing the attorney general's latest move against McNeil. McNeil's supporters say that he was acting under Georgia's "castle doctrine" law, which allows anyone to use deadly force to protect his or her home or its inhabitants from violent intruders.
"This has devastated our family," said Anita McNeil. "[We have] struggled with life, with hope, and even though this has devastated us, it has not broken us."
On Oct. 18 Olens appealed a Georgia Supreme Court judge's decision to allow McNeil to petition for habeas corpus, which would have put McNeil's incarceration under review in front of a judge. Earlier this month, an NAACP petition advocating against an appeal garnered more than 21,000 signatures.
"This is the worst case that we've seen in the last few years," said Brock.
McNeil confronted Brian Epps after Epps threatened his teenager son outside their suburban Atlanta home in December 2005. McNeil fatally shot Epps after the home intruder refused to leave McNeil's property, instead moving closer to the home's back door.
"Can a man in the USA not defend his family?" asked the NAACP's Jealous. "Not a black man in the USA — a man.
"This is not a disgrace that has been done to blacks only," he continued. "This is a disgrace to our entire country."
McNeil, who claimed self-defense, went undetained for more than 270 days before being arrested by order of a Georgia district attorney, even after detectives ruled that McNeil had acted in self-defense.
"I'm not sure if we've ever had a case as clear cut as this," Jealous said. "This is a violation of our nation's first promise to its citizens: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."