"I am Shawn Earl Gardner, live man, flesh and blood."

Washington Monthly featured this story "Too Weird for The Wire" about four African-American defendants charged with murder, drug dealing, weapons possession and racketeering by the federal district court in Baltimore back in 2005. The story behind the case is grisly and devious but altogether unremarkable in the world of narcotics. The hook is their invocation of the "flesh and blood" defense, a strange route of logic that states because the federal government keeps its records on citizens using Social Security numbers and names in uppercase letters, a federal criminal charge is really against a "legal straw man," not the person detained.

That defense relies on the argument that, because of the post-Civil War act "Posse Comitatus" passed in 1878 to maintain segregation, federal law enforcement jurisdiction is limited to federally-owned property. Thus those SSNs and uppercase identifiers are not applicable to people outside of this federal domain. William Gale, a certifiably loony anti-Semite and minister of racist Christian Identity theology, repurposed Posse Comitatus to devise this theory back in 1971. He used it to form groups tasked with "enforcing the Constitution" against an illegitimate government:

Soon, Posses were sprouting across the country, attracting veterans of the 1960s-era tax protest movement, Second Amendment absolutists, Christian Identity adherents, and ardent anti-communists who had abandoned the John Birch Society because they felt the organization wasn’t extreme enough. Local groups would meet to share literature, listen to tapes of Gale’s sermons, and discuss preparations for the approaching End Times. This extremist stew produced exotic amalgamations of paranoia, such as when Posse members would explain the need for local militias to stockpile weapons in order to defend white Christians from blacks in the coming race war sparked by the inevitable economic collapse caused by the income tax and a cabal of international Jewish bankers bent on global dominance through one world government, for Satan.
We're talking over-the edge conspiracy theorists here, guys with tinfoil hats and sheds full of illegal arms. Terry Nichols, co-conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, was a subscriber to one of these Posses. The article gets into how these ideas founded in racism and separatism made their way to four African-Americans defending themselves against drug and homicide charges and the whole story is really engrossing, I highly recommend it. The case has still not gone to trial.

(via kottke.org)