Tuesday, February 12, 2013

John McNeil Coming Home

Statement by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, NC NAACP President, on the Release of John McNeil


12 February 2013

For More Information:       Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, President, 919-394-8137

Mrs. Amina J. Turner, Executive Director, 919-682-4700

On the eve of Lent, and the 104th anniversary of the founding of the NAACP, which began as an organization fighting against the false and unjust convictions of African-American men, the Georgia criminal justice system has engaged in a kind of partial repentance.

            John McNeil was wrongfully convicted nearly six years ago. Two white police officers and a white eye witness testified he acted in self-defense against an aggressor on his own property. His livelihood was taken away. A Georgia Superior Court ruled that there were substantial judicial errors in his original trial, so much so that the judge granted John's petition for habeas corpus. He was torn from his two young sons during their formative years. His faithful and courageous wife was laid to rest just two days ago. She fought until her last breath for his freedom. After all this, John was offered a plea to a lesser charge today, which enabled him to walk out of prison.

            While John pleaded to a lesser charge, the criminal justice system in Georgia and America still remains guilty of the greater charge of continuing disparities and inequities in the sentencing, convictions and imprisonment of African-Americans, minorities and poor whites. So while we are happy that John is free, we remain ever committed to continue the work of making our judicial system fair for all.

            The NAACP does not endorse violence, and none of us, especially John and his family, are happy about the loss of life, and we pray for the Epps family. Though we would have rather John been exonerated based on self-defense, we are thankful that he is able to return home, be with his two sons and start his life over.


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.


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