Within the walls at Forbes Tabernacle in Wilson, the crowd, some of which traveled a long way to be there, came together to celebrate the life of Anita McNeil. She lost her battle for breast cancer on Saturday while still fighting the battle to get her husband out of prison. She died just days before the fight for his freedom could come to an end.
In 2005, she and her husband, John McNeil, were building a home in Georgia. McNeil says one day their contractor attacked him with a knife. McNeil shot him in self defense and a year later was convicted of murder and sentence to life in prison. The NAACP believes Georgia's Stand Your Ground Law was not properly applied to this case. Since then, the NAACP and McNeil's wife, Anita, made it a mission to set him free. She continued this fight, even when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"She displayed the kind of love that made a difference, she loved justice, she loved her husband," said Rev. Dr. William Barber, the NC NAACP President. He also gave the eulogy at her funeral.
McNeil's perseverance paid off. In recent months a Georgia judge ruled McNeil was unlawfully imprisoned and set the wheels in motion that could soon set him free. Rev. Dr. Barber said he recently spoke to John McNeil since Anita McNeil passed away.
"He loves his wife, they were best friends, like any husband he wants to be here but he's in good spirits."
While in prison, McNeil has now lost his mother and his Wife. Rev. Dr. Barber says McNeil is scheduled to face a judge in Cobb County Superior Court on Tuesday in Georgia.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that McNeil could plead guilty to the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter. He would then be sentenced to 20 years, serve seven, and then be under probation.
Since he has already been in jail for almost seven years, he would get credit for time served and would be out on probation. That could happen as early as next week.