Is John McNeil the Black George Zimmerman?
McNeil killed a man on his property, but Stand Your Ground didn't protect him from life sentence
Have you heard the story of John McNeil?
The story goes that McNeil hired construction worker Brian Epp to build a home for him in Cobb County, Georgia. Epp had a reputation of being very confrontational and even threatening towards his clients. When McNeil and his family decided that they had enough of Epp they decided to end their relationship with him and closed on their home early, making Epp agree to finish his work in 10 days and never return. But he did.
In December 2005 McNeil's 15-year old son La'ron called him to report a man was lurking around in their backyard, it turned out to be Epp. When La'Ron confronted Epp, he pulled out a knife and challenged La'Ron to "make me leave." At that point McNeil recognized Epp's voice and told his son to go back in the house.
McNeil called 911 on his way back home to check things out. When he got there he saw Epp next door. He walked up on Epp, gun in hand and fired a warning shot telling him to back off and leave. Epp charged at him, reaching for his pocket. McNeil, who is still on his own property, shot Epp in the chest killing him. It was later found out that Epps was going for the knife in his pocket.
Initially, Georgia's Stand Your Ground laws protected McNeil as he was never jailed or found guilty of any crime. But, a year later, disgruntled citizens wrote letters to the District Attorney's office demanding that McNeil be arrested. Among those letters was one from Epp's wife. Those demands were met when McNeil was brought back to court and charged with murder. He was swiftly convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
The same infamous Stand Your Ground law that allows anyone who feels threatened to kill their attacker under any circumstances worked in the favor of George Zimmerman up until Wednesday. Zimmerman was not arrested or charged with any crime until 40-plus days after he killed Trayvon Martin, who he claims attacked him after he followed him around his neighborhood for looking "suspicious." His arrest and charges of second degree murder seemingly came about after weeks of protests and pressure from the Martin family, their legal team, the public and the media.
There was no huge media influence in the case of McNeil. Only one North Carolina NAACP chapter addressed the situation. But, since letters pressured the DA into getting a conviction of McNeil, will the same happen for Zimmerman? Some still say no.
“The NRA would be screaming about the injustice of his conviction if John had been white and shot a black assailant that came at him on his property armed with a knife," says Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP State Conference to Salon. “There is a history and legacy of discriminatory application of the law. African-Americans are caught in curious position. On one hand, we fight against stand your ground laws, but once the laws are on the books they aren’t applied to us.”
[Also Read: How You Might Be Supporting Stand Your Ground ]