In 2005, John McNeil rushed to the aid of his son who had been threatened in the family's backyard by Brian Epp with a knife. When McNeil arrived on the scene, Epp charged toward him. McNeil pulled his gun and fired a warning shot into the ground. But Epp kept coming until McNeil ended the situation with a single shot to the head. In 2006, McNeil was convicted of felony murder despite a police investigation that found the shooting to be self defense, eye witness testimony backing up that claim, and character witnesses testifying to the ill-temper of Epp.
As with Zimmerman, Stand Your Ground isn't actually relevant to McNeil's case, but my point in writing about Brandon Gotwalt last week was to show that the other aspect of Stand Your Ground laws, immunity from civil prosecution, is important. Gotwalt is an example of what happens when a political machine tries to make an example of you; they pursued civil prosecution where witness testimony was questionable and rules of evidence are less strict so that they could use that evidence to jump-start the criminal prosecution. Though Gotwalt never saw the inside of prison cell (thankfully), he was still bankrupted for coming to the aid of a woman crying out for help.
Unlike my position on these cases, the NAACP is anti-Zimmerman and pro-McNeil. I'll have to give credit to them for initially publicizing John McNeil's plight. But I have to say their attention span is short. I wrote to them early last year trying to get an update on McNeil's case, first to the guy that pestered Rev. Kenn Blanchard and then to some lady to whom I was referred. I've received nary a peep from the NAACP though they did put me on some broadcast activist email list. I'm guessing there isn't much media play in McNeil's name, or that they are more interested in seeing Zimmerman rot in prison than using Trayvon Martin's tragic death to help get a pardon for John McNeil.
As I'm writing this, I've discovered they did have a rally in Cobb County, GA, last year -- would have been nice if the NAACP had actually told me about it. Or told anyone about it. What I can tell you about the case is that it looks like McNeil has no money and is representing himself by filing hand-written papers from his prison cell (way to go NAACP legal department). And that's about all I can gather, as most of the court papers are behind Cobb County's heavily redacted website. For their part, members of his family have reached out to me via email over this past year but we never seemed to connect; I'm sure this is hard on them.
And now for the uncomfortable part for my core audience. From Balko:
The unfortunate framing aside, this is still a story that deserves more attention, and one that the gun rights crowd should be all over—and really should have been all over from the start.Hey punk, some of us have been on it! But yeah, Radley Balko has a point. When I first stumbled upon this story last year I emailed links to a some big name gunbloggers but only Say Uncle put anything up. From the comments and other posts I saw at the time, I would say that is a fair observation that more pro-gun people were exercised about the NAACP calling them out than McNeil's incarceration. I know that isn't gonna make me popular, but at this rate nothing much is so I'm putting it as I see it.