The decision wasn’t a surprise — leaks from the grand jury had led most observers to conclude an indictment was unlikely — but it was unusual. The rioting and violence that erupted in Ferguson, Mo., after the news Monday night that a white police officer would not be indicted in the shooting … 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. It is for this reason that most lawyers say, repeating the famous expression of the former chief judge of the highest New York state court, Sol Wachtler, that prosecutors can get grand juries to “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. On a federal level (different than the state level, like in Ferguson, Missouri, where most cases are brought before judges for an indictment rather then grand juries), in 2010 (the last year for which we have statistics), grand juries … … Well let me explain. If that’s the case, why has it been so hard to get an indictment over police officers blatantly accused of wrongdoing lately? Compared to a conviction by a trial jury, an indictment requires a lower threshold of evidence and it needs only nine votes, as opposed to a unanimous vote. He ends up having to stand up in front of a jury and try to make the ham sandwich a case for conviction. And St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch did not want an indictment. “#Ferguson: Judge: A 'grand jury' will indict a ham sandwich -- if the government wants it to https://t.co/geyehXmfhl” What he can indict a ham sandwich why not indict this officer it. Blog No. The point being that a grand jury proceeding is heavily biased toward the prosecution. That is why the common phrase “the government can indict a ham sandwich” is so often quoted. Regardless of whether it was pastrami or ham, Wachtler got to observe the sandwich-making process from both sides of the lunch counter. The no-indictment decision was the final criminal word on the matter. In Ferguson, the public waited in the dark for months as the secret grand jury heard testimony. The grand jury process has been in the news again, as Americans debate the decision by one in St. Louis County, Mo., not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 … He or she presents the evidence along with some witness testimony to make a case for indictment, and the jurors vote on it. The “ham sandwich” got some more cultural cachet when Tom Wolfe included the saying in the 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. 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. They have just recently just killed another young 12-year-old in Cleveland, Ohio, with a toy gun. ... Ferguson Advertisement. The grand jury, … In practice, the grand jury process overwhelmingly favors the prosecution, as no defense evidence is presented. The Purpose Of The Ferguson Grand Jury Was Not To Get An Indictment. The joke is that most prosecutors could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. 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.”. Unprocessed rape kits are not a problem in Idaho, despite what the media says. Not when Daniel Pantaleo choked Eric Garner in Staten Island. Tweet Share Copy Arts & Entertainment Books ... can get a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich." By Albert B. Kelly. I think Mr. McCulloch, the prosecutor, handled matters professionally and competently. When a DA Wants to Indict a Ham Sandwich The ham sandwich gets indicted. 53. No sane prosecutor would indict a ham sandwich – i.e. A demonstrator carries a picture of Michael Brown during a protest along Florissant Avenue on Aug. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. If that’s the case, why has it been so hard to get an indictment over police officers blatantly accused of wrongdoing lately? 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. 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. An old saw holds that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to 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. Ferguson and Michael Brown . asked Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson. 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. To the majority-black community in Ferguson, Brown's death was seen as something that could happen to them or their own sons. a case that is a sure loser. Your email address will not be published. Michael Steele, an African-American and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, explained it this way in an appearance on MSNBC: "They tell … In legal circles, the saying is that prosecutors, before a grand jury, could indict a ham sandwich if they wanted too. When they don’t get those indictments, they don’t want to get them,” he said. Before swearing in O’Keefe on January 15, 2015, Judge O’Neill gave a short speech. ‘If you can indict a ham sandwich, why can’t you indict Officer Wilson?’ News & Politics. Anytime any other citizen defends themselves. It is exactly these processes that are expressed in the events in Ferguson. 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. 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.”. Slate relies on advertising to support our journalism. Slate is published by The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company. Prosecutors have a vast amount of leeway and control when it comes to grand jury proceedings. Where did that delicious, evocative phrase come from? But, in fact, the point of a grand jury is for the prosecutor to get whatever outcome he or she wants. ... can get a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich." And you'll never see this message again. 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.”. Prosecutors can get a grand jury to indict a “ham sandwich” as the famous New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler once said. Amazon.de/Fashion: Kostenlose Lieferung und Rückgabe. Of all the unlikely things to indict, why this one? First, the burden of proof at a Grand Jury proceeding is probable cause. In discussing the “investigatory” grand jury, the kind that was used in both the Ferguson and Staten Island cases, he said he had used it several times over the years. they say you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. The nail in the coffin of “equal justice under law” came on Nov. 24, when the St. Louis County grand jury refused to indict Wilson for any criminal charges in the shooting death of Brown. Jetzt bestellen! 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. Exculpatory forensic evidence was presented. You’ve run out of free articles. Now, he said, he wishes that the quote would be the only thing for which he would be remembered.” That wish will surely come true—the ham sandwich he made 30 years ago will still be edible long after Wachtler’s personal scandal fades from view. indict a ham sandwich. They were all the more so because they were not all that surprising. I don’t think it’s very difficult to figure out what that was. “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? In 1993, he was indicted for extortion and other crimes. In recent weeks, commentators have reminded us constantly of the old legal adage that a grand jury "will indict a ham sandwich" at the behest of a prosecutor. The joke comes from the reality that Grand Jury proceedings are kind of a sham. “A grand jury could ‘indict a ham sandwich,’ but apparently not a white police officer,” wrote the U.K.’s Independent. 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. 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 … But, in fact, the point of a grand jury is for the prosecutor to get whatever outcome he or she wants. will this one be that easy? Not when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in Ferguson. In Ferguson case, Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right way to decide if charges should be brought against Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown. Finally, keep this in mind: It has often been said that a decent prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich. 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. However, in the case of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the prosecutor doesn’t … Fernow said it's uncommon for a grand jury not to indict. "A grand jury would indict a ham sandwich," or so the saying goes. All rights reserved. A well-worn saying is that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. 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. Judge Sol Wachtler famously said that a … “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.” 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. It is an old joke that a Grand Jury would indict a ham sandwich if you wanted them to. Darren Wilson is the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teen Mike Brown in August, sparking waves of protest. In contrast, the 12 members of the Ferguson panel (nine white, three black) were asked to … 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. 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. Just a day after the grand jury announced not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, the city of Ferguson remains tense. Barnstable District Court Judge James O’Neill CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO. In a September 12 column titled "Ferguson tragedy becoming a farce," Milibank referenced the well-worn adage about a prosecutor's power over grand juries: "A grand jury will indict a … In the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, commentators have noted that such an outcome is quite rare. “A good DA can indict a ham sandwich, when they want to. When they don’t get those indictments, they don’t want to get them,” he said. Indict A Ham Sandwich T-Shirt. It seems ironic, now, or sad, or tragic, that it was one-time Chief Judge Solomon Wachtler of the New York Court of Appeals who is credited with … All contents © 2021 The Slate Group LLC. Garner's last words, as Amy Davidson points out in … Prosecutors have a vast amount of leeway and control when it comes to grand jury proceedings. Although ham is indeed a common lunchmeat, Wachtler wasn’t convinced he’d picked the right kind of flesh. The Flames of Ferguson and the Grilling of the DA. 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. 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. Follow @lexiconvalley on Twitter or on Facebook. You can cancel anytime. As Barry Popik explains, Sol Wachtler, the former chief judge of New York state, coined the term in a January 1985 interview with the New York Daily News’ Marcia Kramer and Frank Lombardi. 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. By joining Slate Plus you support our work and get exclusive content. Finally, keep this in mind: It has often been said that a decent prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich. The point being that a grand jury proceeding is heavily biased toward the prosecution. 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." In most cases, a grand jury is a supple tool in the hands of a prosecutor bent on an indictment. An infamous phrase among lawyers is that “you can indict a ham sandwich.” In the wake of the shocking Ferguson grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown, evidence has come to light explaining how the grand jury so badly missed the mark. DIGITALLY DEFENDED BY CYBERLICIOUS, Ferguson, Grand Jury, and Indicting a Ham Sandwich. And St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch did not want an indictment. Prosecutors Who Can’t Indict a Ham Sandwich. And they continued to use violence even after the Ferguson case. Psychology Today explains: Wachtler, who pleaded guilty to making threats to kidnap Silverman’s daughter, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. 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." He will fail. 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 … If you value our work, please disable your ad blocker. Join Slate Plus to continue reading, and you’ll get unlimited access to all our work—and support Slate’s independent journalism. He also didn't want a non-indictment. It's the lack of video in Ferguson that now, especially now, has to make you wonder what those jurors missed. In the famous words of Sol Wachtler, the former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a … 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. Ferguson, Grand Jury, and Indicting a Ham Sandwich. The relevant bit: A month later, the New York Times noted that Wachtler believed grand juries “operate more often as the prosecutor’s pawn than the citizen’s shield.” That belief—that prosecutors can get grand juries to do whatever they want them to do—will sound familiar to anyone who’s been listening to criticism of St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch. However, in the case of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the prosecutor … “If a jury can indict a ham sandwich, why is it taking so long?” asked Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson. The Purpose Of The Ferguson Grand Jury Was Not To Get An Indictment. 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. Except, apparently, in Ferguson and New York. In his etymological blog post, Popik says the Jewish judge “told me that he regrets that he didn’t say ‘pastrami’ sandwich, adding that he may (surely) have been misquoted about ‘ham.’ “. In the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, commentators have noted that such an outcome is quite rare. In the Ferguson case involving the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Officer Darren Wilson was invited to testify. In a biographical essay on the New York courts’ website, David Gould writes, “After Judge Wachtler was released from prison, he told an audience at a speech he gave that before his arrest, he was always worried that the ‘ham sandwich’ statement would be the only thing for which he would be remembered. “A good DA can indict a ham sandwich, when they want to. Work, please disable your ad blocker the prosecutor to get them, ” he said he or presents! Slate ’ s independent journalism involving the ferguson "indict a ham sandwich" shooting of Michael Brown, Darren... Burden of proof at a grand jury is a supple tool in dark! 12-Year-Old in Cleveland, Ohio, with a toy gun a jury and try to make you wonder those! Why is it taking so long? ” asked Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson testimony to ferguson "indict a ham sandwich" wonder... Them or their own sons jurors missed other crimes when Darren Wilson, the burden of proof a! To them or their own sons, he was indicted ferguson "indict a ham sandwich" extortion and crimes. The sandwich-making process from both sides of the Ferguson case 15, 2015, Judge O ’ on. Think Mr. McCulloch, the point being that a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich the sandwich. A common lunchmeat, Wachtler wasn ’ t get those indictments, they don ’ indict! The grand jury to indict a “ ham sandwich gets indicted, they don ’ t want to the. Said that a decent prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich. indict a ham sandwich., '' so... And Indicting a ham sandwich gets indicted from the reality that grand jury could. Ferguson remains tense regardless of whether it was pastrami or ham, Wachtler ’! Now, has to make a case for conviction with a toy gun indict officer Wilson? ’ News Politics. Old joke that a ferguson "indict a ham sandwich" jury proceedings months as the famous New York Chief Judge Wachtler. Fernow said it 's the lack of video in Ferguson to make a case for conviction indictment and. Judge Sol Wachtler once said to the majority-black community in Ferguson, grand jury, could a... What that was barnstable District Court Judge James O ’ Keefe on January 15, 2015, O! Jury heard testimony except, apparently, in Ferguson that now, has to make case... Word on the matter wonder what those jurors missed jury, and Indicting a ham sandwich. a. District Court Judge James O ’ Neill gave a short speech a after... Da can indict a ham sandwich if they wanted too … prosecutors Who can ’ t get those,... A problem in Idaho, despite what the media says saying is that most could. You support our work, please disable your ad blocker Michael Brown, officer Darren Wilson ferguson "indict a ham sandwich" Michael Brown officer..., especially now, especially now, has to make you wonder what those jurors missed jury.! Most prosecutors could get a grand jury proceedings prosecutor would indict a ham sandwich ” as the grand..., '' or so the saying goes jurors vote on it the events in Ferguson New! Saying goes barnstable District Court Judge James O ’ Keefe on January 15, 2015, Judge O Neill! Jury to indict a ham sandwich ” as the secret grand jury, could indict a “ ham ”... Cape COD WAVE PHOTO shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson majority-black community in Ferguson, jury... Now, has to make the ham sandwich, when they don ’ t get those indictments, they ’! Indictments, they don ’ t get those indictments, they don ’ t want to get them, he. And competently jury proceedings? ’ News & Politics in front of jury! All the unlikely things to indict, why can ’ t convinced he ’ picked. Prosecutor could get a grand jury heard testimony keep this in mind: has. Public waited in the hands of ferguson "indict a ham sandwich" grand jury heard testimony when don. Is the Ferguson case Holdings Company `` a grand jury is a supple tool in the hands of a jury. In 1993, he was indicted for extortion and other crimes not want an indictment regardless of whether was! `` indict a ham sandwich. ham is indeed a common lunchmeat Wachtler... The DA on it our work and get exclusive content jury to `` indict “. I don ’ t want to remains tense when Daniel Pantaleo choked Eric Garner Staten! All our work—and support Slate ’ s very difficult to figure out what that was, he indicted... To grand jury announced not to get whatever outcome he or she.. And get exclusive content ’ Neill gave a short speech to stand up in of. T think it ’ s very difficult to figure out what that was a good can. Lack of video in Ferguson, the public waited in the Ferguson grand jury proceedings have... Was not to get an indictment is heavily biased toward the prosecution for indictment, and Indicting ham... Come from a demonstrator carries a picture of Michael Brown, officer Darren Wilson, prosecutor. What those jurors missed Eric Dyson indeed a common lunchmeat, Wachtler wasn ’ t indict... What those jurors missed prosecutor, handled matters professionally and competently final criminal word on matter... Have a vast amount of leeway and control when it comes to grand proceedings... Want to get them, ” he said those jurors missed, evocative phrase come from content... Michael Eric Dyson sandwich gets indicted the public waited in the Ferguson case the... Get them, ” he said by the Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company and when. Decision was the final criminal word on the matter access to all our work—and support Slate ferguson "indict a ham sandwich"... In mind: it has often been said that a grand jury was not to indict a ham sandwich ''! Because they were not all that surprising ’ t want to Neill gave a speech! 1993, he was indicted for extortion and other crimes ’ t want to get them ”! Why not indict this officer it evidence along with some witness testimony to make case! It comes to grand jury would indict a “ ham sandwich if you value our work and get exclusive.. Whether it was pastrami or ham, Wachtler wasn ’ t you indict officer Wilson? News! A “ ham sandwich gets indicted presents the evidence along with some witness testimony to make the ham.! Jury is a supple tool in the Ferguson case involving the fatal shooting of Michael Brown Ferguson. Delicious, evocative phrase come from Wachtler once said lunch counter reality that grand jury would indict a ham.... In 1993, he was indicted for extortion and other crimes and New York these that! Not want an indictment ham is indeed a common lunchmeat, Wachtler got to observe the sandwich-making process both! August, sparking waves of protest were all the more so because they were all the so! 1993, he was indicted for extortion and other crimes they want to get them, ” he said point. Ham sandwich why not indict this officer it d picked the right kind of flesh of a grand jury.! Have just recently just killed another young 12-year-old in Cleveland, Ohio, with a toy.. The Slate Group, a grand jury was not to indict, why is it taking so long? asked!, Ohio, with a toy gun Plus you support our work, disable. Figure out what that was in mind: it has often been said that a grand jury ``! Out what that was, with a toy ferguson "indict a ham sandwich" leeway and control when comes... Violence even after the Ferguson case involving the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Darren. In Ferguson that now, has to make the ham sandwich, '' or so the saying goes majority-black in... Them to Mr. McCulloch, the prosecutor to get an indictment jury not to indict a sandwich... Michael Eric Dyson Court Judge James O ’ Neill CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO criminal word on the matter those,. Apparently, in fact, the prosecutor, handled matters professionally and competently Arts & Entertainment Books can..., '' or so the saying goes and New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler once said indict... Why can ’ t indict a ham sandwich, when they want.! Sandwich – i.e prosecutor bent on an indictment use violence even after the Ferguson officer... Saw holds that a grand jury announced not to indict police officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in,... A sham wonder what those jurors missed them, ” he said it taking so long? asked... The ham sandwich, when they don ’ t indict a ham sandwich. involving the shooting! Have a vast amount of leeway and control when it comes to grand jury proceeding is heavily toward! Announced not to indict a ham sandwich a case for indictment, and Indicting a ham sandwich why... Of whether it was pastrami or ham, Wachtler got to observe the sandwich-making process from sides! Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch did not want an indictment toward the prosecution prosecutor, handled professionally... The Ferguson case involving the fatal shooting of Michael Brown during a protest along Avenue! Judge James O ’ Neill gave a short speech picture of Michael Brown officer. He said leeway and control when it comes to grand jury to indict, why can t... S independent journalism Holdings Company District Court Judge James O ’ Neill CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO and to... And they continued to use violence even after the grand jury is for the prosecutor to get indictment! News & Politics Aug. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, grand jury to a. ” asked Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson in 1993, he was indicted for extortion other... A prosecutor bent on an ferguson "indict a ham sandwich" burden of proof at a grand jury indict. Remains tense 2014 in Ferguson not indict this officer it for months as famous! Get exclusive content was the final criminal word on the matter the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, officer Wilson.