AFRICANGLOBE – A man who was freed after spending seven years in prison after he was wrongly convicted of murder returned home to bury his wife that died just ten days before his release.
John McNeil, from Wilson, Georgia was sentenced to life after shooting a builder at his home in 2005, despite claiming self-defence under the controversial ‘stand your ground law’, which allows people to use deadly force if their lives are in danger.
John McNeil told local police that the victim Brian Epp was belligerent and had threatened his son with a knife just before the shooting.
A witness testified that Epp came onto McNeil’s driveway, ignored a warning shot and charged at McNeil, who then fired a fatal shot.
As her husband appealed against his conviction, his wife of 22 years, Anita McNeil was fighting breast cancer that had spread to her bones. Her family and friends believe she tried to wait until he was free, but she died of cancer on February 2.
Last week John McNeil pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to time served and 13 years of probation. The high school sweethearts had discussed McNeil’s change of plea for the greater aim of returning him home as soon as possible to be with their two sons.
McNeil upheld this aim even when his wife passed, he told the DailyMail: “I needed to get here for our two sons. That was one of the requests she made – get home to our sons, they need you.”
Whilst in prison McNeil had missed the funeral of his mother who died in 2012 and was determined not to miss the burial of his wife, which took place on Valentine’s Day.
McNeil’s case prompted calls from the NAACP and other groups for ‘stand your ground’ laws to apply to all citizens, regardless of race.
The Reverend William Barber, head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, called McNeil’s release ‘partial justice’ and hinted that the case isn’t over.