“A prosecutor can have a grand jury indict a ham sandwich if he wants to.”–― former New York State chief judge Sol Wachtler commenting in a 1985 interview how district attorneys have so much influence on grand juries that “by and large” they can “indict a ham sandwich.” Prosecutors can get a grand jury to indict a “ham sandwich” as the famous New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler once said. You can cancel anytime. will this one be that easy? The “ham sandwich” got some more cultural cachet when Tom Wolfe included the saying in the 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. Fernow said it's uncommon for a grand jury not to indict. In fact, it’s so easy in most cases that a former New York state chief judge, Sol Wachtler, famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.”. He ends up having to stand up in front of a jury and try to make the ham sandwich a case for conviction. “A good DA can indict a ham sandwich, when they want to. All contents © 2021 The Slate Group LLC. In legal circles, the saying is that prosecutors, before a grand jury, could indict a ham sandwich if they wanted too. In 1993, he was indicted for extortion and other crimes. Exculpatory forensic evidence was presented. As the old saying goes (and as you are taught in law school), “A grand jury could indict a ham sandwich.” Like all clichés, it stems from some nugget of truth. Government abuse of the grand jury system has become so notorious and problematic, it caused New York Court of Appeals Judge Sol Wachtler to famously say nearly 30 years ago that if a prosecutor wanted to, a grand jury would “indict a ham sandwich.”. Follow @lexiconvalley on Twitter or on Facebook. I think Mr. McCulloch, the prosecutor, handled matters professionally and competently. “A grand jury could ‘indict a ham sandwich,’ but apparently not a white police officer,” wrote the U.K.’s Independent. “But mainly you used the grand jury to indict people,” Wolfe wrote, “and in the famous phrase of Sol Wachtler, chief judge of the State Court of Appeals, a grand jury would ‘indict a ham sandwich,’ if that’s what you wanted.”, Of all the sandwiches in all the delis in all the world, why a ham sandwich? But, in fact, the point of a grand jury is for the prosecutor to get whatever outcome he or she wants. Recently, two grand juries decided the fate of police officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. by Douglas M. Parker; November 30, 2014; The scenes of burning buildings in Ferguson, immediately following a Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, were appalling and depressing. Ferguson, Grand Jury, and Indicting a Ham Sandwich. Except, apparently, in Ferguson and New York. Darren Wilson is the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teen Mike Brown in August, sparking waves of protest. New York State Chief Judge Sol Wachtler is quoted as saying that “a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich, if that’s what you wanted.” And after months and … Government abuse of the grand jury system has become so notorious and problematic, it caused New York Court of Appeals Judge Sol Wachtler to famously say nearly 30 years ago that if a prosecutor wanted to, a grand jury would "indict a ham sandwich." To recap the relevant facts: Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed eighteen-year-old man, on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. In November, a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict a Ferguson officer in the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Prosecutors have a vast amount of leeway and control when it comes to grand jury proceedings. A prosecutor might be able to get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, as the saying goes, but not two police officers who caused the deaths of unarmed men. As New York Judge Sol Wachtler said in 1985, “If a district attorney wanted, a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.” Grand juries are the prosecutor’s babies. All rights reserved. The point being that a grand jury proceeding is heavily biased toward the prosecution. “A good DA can indict a ham sandwich, when they want to. And you'll never see this message again. indict a ham sandwich. Ferguson Legal Experts Love ‘Ham Sandwich’ Indictment Line (Washington Free Beacon) There were so many smart takes, it was hard to keep track during Monday’s coverage of a Ferguson grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. If that’s the case, why has it been so hard to get an indictment over police officers blatantly accused of wrongdoing lately? I was a grand juror and I would have voted to indict in Ferguson I was a grand juror, and I can tell you they indict all the time. If you value our work, please disable your ad blocker. It is an old joke that a Grand Jury would indict a ham sandwich if you wanted them to. When they don’t get those indictments, they don’t want to get them,” he said. By Albert B. Kelly. Amazon.de/Fashion: Kostenlose Lieferung und Rückgabe. Tweet Share Copy Arts & Entertainment Books ... can get a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich." It is exactly these processes that are expressed in the events in Ferguson. "A grand jury would indict a ham sandwich," or so the saying goes. ... can get a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich." A demonstrator carries a picture of Michael Brown during a protest along Florissant Avenue on Aug. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. ‘If you can indict a ham sandwich, why can’t you indict Officer Wilson?’ News & Politics. The no-indictment decision was the final criminal word on the matter. He or she presents the evidence along with some witness testimony to make a case for indictment, and the jurors vote on it. And St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch did not want an indictment. Although ham is indeed a common lunchmeat, Wachtler wasn’t convinced he’d picked the right kind of flesh. They have just recently just killed another young 12-year-old in Cleveland, Ohio, with a toy gun. As we’ve all heard by now, any halfway-decent prosecutor can get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich” if that’s the outcome she wants. A prosecutor might be able to get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, as the saying goes, but not two police officers who caused the deaths of unarmed men. Join Slate Plus to continue reading, and you’ll get unlimited access to all our work—and support Slate’s independent journalism. But, in fact, the point of a grand jury is for the prosecutor to get whatever outcome he or she wants. Not when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in Ferguson. Anytime any other citizen defends themselves. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele on Wednesday criticized grand jury decisions to not indict white police officers in the deaths of black men in New York and Ferguson, Mo. Michael Steele, an African-American and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, explained it this way in an appearance on MSNBC: "They tell … So you can see that the unwillingness to indict the police officer is a bizarre outcome and clearly reflects that something else was going on. Your email address will not be published. Slate is published by The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company. Well let me explain. First, the burden of proof at a Grand Jury proceeding is probable cause. The Purpose Of The Ferguson Grand Jury Was Not To Get An Indictment. Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” The data suggests he … Prosecutors Who Can’t Indict a Ham Sandwich. indict a ham sandwich fivethirtyeight.com | A St. Louis County grand jury on Monday decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police Officer Darren Wilson in the August killing of teenager Michael Brown. However, in the case of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the prosecutor … They were all the more so because they were not all that surprising. The joke is that most prosecutors could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. No sane prosecutor would indict a ham sandwich – i.e. If that’s the case, why has it been so hard to get an indictment over police officers blatantly accused of wrongdoing lately? 53. In most cases, a grand jury is a supple tool in the hands of a prosecutor bent on an indictment. Before swearing in O’Keefe on January 15, 2015, Judge O’Neill gave a short speech. I don’t think it’s very difficult to figure out what that was. After his arrest, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and is now an advocate for the mentally ill. Wachtler, who is 84, had his law license restored in 2007. Of all the unlikely things to indict, why this one? Psychology Today explains: Wachtler, who pleaded guilty to making threats to kidnap Silverman’s daughter, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. The joke comes from the reality that Grand Jury proceedings are kind of a sham. 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