The president of North Carolina's NAACP, the Rev. William Barber, held a news conference Friday outside the courthouse in Wilson in support of John McNeil, who went to high school there.
McNeil is serving a life sentence. He has said he had little choice but to open fire when Brian Epp charged at him with a knife during a December 2005 shouting match.
"John McNeil was afraid for his life and his son's life and he did what any father would do - any true protector of his family," offered Barber Friday.
But the Georgia Supreme Court has upheld McNeil's murder conviction. While the court majority upheld his conviction, the chief justice wrote a dissenting opinion saying there's no way he should have been jailed in the first place.
"There's no judge, no jury, anywhere, if you take race out of it, who would have ever convicted John McNeil said Al McSurley, a civil rights attorney who attended Friday's news conference.
McNeil's wife, Anita, lives in Wilson and also attended the news conference Friday. She said she and her husband were high school sweethearts in Wilson. He became a successful salesman in Cobb County, Georgia, where they were the only black family in an affluent white neighborhood. The man McNeil shot was also white.
Anita McNeil told reporters she's not angry, just sad. She's battling an aggressive cancer and says she doesn't have the strength to hold a grudge. But, she is determined to keep fighting for her husband and fighting for what she says is right.
"Whether it's this time, my lifetime, that one day, we will get to a place where everything will be equal and there will be justice for everybody," she said.
The family is now resting its hopes on getting a new trial based on new evidence that's come out since McNeil's conviction.