McNeil also lost on appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court in 2008. However, Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears dissented saying:
I share the majority’s reluctance to overturn a jury verdict. However, I conclude that no rational trier of fact could find, based on the evidence presented at trial, that the State disproved McNeil’s claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, I must dissent.Epp was white. McNeil is black. Sears is also black. Could this be an issue of the justice system mistreating a man due to his race? It certainly wouldn't be the first time a person has been convicted in a righteous self defense shooting, but the only people taking notice of this case seem to be black. The NAACP says "Ask why gun rights advocates have not supported John McNeil." The answer is probably that most of us have never heard of this case. I only found out about it after listening to Kenn Blanchards's (The Black Man With A Gun) Urban Shooter Podcast, and he only heard about it because the NAACP called him. I can't find an article on it in either the Atlanta Journal Constitution or the Marietta Daily Journal (Marietta is the county-seat of Cobb County, where the shooting occurred).
It does appear that well-known gun rights advocate David Codrea did touch on this story a couple of months back, but his column descended into the issue of the NAACP's anti-gun stance instead of truly focusing on what appears to be a miscarriage of justice. That's unfortunate, especially since the national NAACP has no official anti-gun stance -- or so they said to Kenn Blanchard. The anti-gun activities are the products of the state and local chapters.
The gun-unfriendly nature of the NAACP and whether or not John McNeil is black and Brian Epp was white are irrelevant. What has happened here is that a man has been wrongly convicted in a self-defense shooting and pressure needs to be applied to correct this injustice. Perhaps the Governor of Georgia can be persuaded to grant McNeil a pardon. In the interests of black people and white people and people who care about the natural right to self defense, this case needs more publicity.
Interestingly, there is one more nexus between this story and gun rights. This shooting took place in Kennesaw, Georgia. In 1982, Kennesaw passed a law requiring every household to maintain and have a firearm. While the law is not really enforced and contains a loophole for anybody who doesn't want to abide by it, the city was responding to a gun ban in Morton Grove, Ill. and taking a stand for gun rights.
Justice for John McNeil - PDF of a glossy with lots of information.
NAACP armed defense endorsement is inconsistent with group's anti-gun stance - David Codrea's column.
S08A1221. McNEIL v. THE STATE. - from the GA Supreme Court
Another Black Man Convicted of Murder Charge Gets Life in Prison: He Says it Was Self-Defense
199 Good Year - the Urban Shooter Podcast episode where Kenn Blanchard discusses this case.
Self Defense Leads to a Life Sentence in Georgia -- NAACP press release.