A man just arrested in Indiana on double-murder charges related to an arson in Chicago 17 years ago told a judge he’s now a sovereign citizen who wants to represent himself.
“I’m a free sovereign [and] I don’t consent to these proceedings,” Lemanuel Jackson said in a Cook County courtroom on Tuesday, the Chicago Sun Times reported in today’s editions.
Judge Michael Clancy’s advised Jackson to accept legal representation from a court-appointed defense attorney, but the defendant rejected that suggestion. The judge then ordered Jackson held without bond until further proceedings, the newspaper reported.
It wasn’t immediately clear when, why or how Jackson became a sovereign citizen – part of an antigovernment sect that doesn’t recognize or follow most laws and licensing requirements, choosing instead to be “free, corporate souls.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Thrun said Jackson and Eric Brocks walked into the former Mike and Sons Food and Liquor Store on West Roosevelt Road at midday on November 25, 2000. After dousing the floor with gasoline, the suspects set the accelerant on fire.
A “wall of fire” blocked exit doors of the store, which was filled with customers who managed to escape, the newspaper reported.
However, two cashiers, Annie Reed, 37, and Hatari Smith, 25, were trapped in a small office on the second floor and died from carbon monoxide poisoning, the state prosecutor told the court.
In 2006, investigators learned from an informant that Johnnie Sims drove the getaway vehicle which was registered to Jackson. Another informant told investigators the fire was set to collect insurance, the newspaper reported.
Sims pled guilty to aggravated arson and was sentenced to eight years in prison after testifying against Brock, the newspaper reports. Brocks was convicted of first-degree murder in December 2013 and sentenced to life in prison.
Jackson, who listed an address in Appleton, Wisconsin, has been a fugitive since November 2013 when a murder warrant was issued. He recently was arrested in Crown Point, Indiana, the newspaper reported.