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. In practice, the grand jury process overwhelmingly favors the prosecution, as no defense evidence is presented. But, in fact, the point of a grand jury is for the prosecutor to get whatever outcome he or she wants. A well-worn saying is that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. To the majority-black community in Ferguson, Brown's death was seen as something that could happen to them or their own sons. If that’s the case, why has it been so hard to get an indictment over police officers blatantly accused of wrongdoing lately? 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. It is exactly these processes that are expressed in the events in Ferguson. In Ferguson, the public waited in the dark for months as the secret grand jury heard testimony. The joke comes from the reality that Grand Jury proceedings are kind of a sham. “#Ferguson: Judge: A 'grand jury' will indict a ham sandwich -- if the government wants it to https://t.co/geyehXmfhl” Slate is published by The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company. Barnstable District Court Judge James O’Neill CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO. Psychology Today explains: Wachtler, who pleaded guilty to making threats to kidnap Silverman’s daughter, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. The grand jury, … Join Slate Plus to continue reading, and you’ll get unlimited access to all our work—and support Slate’s independent journalism. 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. 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. 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. Not when Daniel Pantaleo choked Eric Garner in Staten Island. Judge Sol Wachtler famously said that a … 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. First, the burden of proof at a Grand Jury proceeding is probable cause. 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.’ “. All rights reserved. Finally, keep this in mind: It has often been said that a decent prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich. Jetzt bestellen! Prosecutors can get a grand jury to indict a “ham sandwich” as the famous New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler once said. ... Ferguson Advertisement. 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 … Just a day after the grand jury announced not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, the city of Ferguson remains tense. In contrast, the 12 members of the Ferguson panel (nine white, three black) were asked to … 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." Ferguson, Grand Jury, and Indicting a Ham Sandwich. 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. And they continued to use violence even after the Ferguson case. But, in fact, the point of a grand jury is for the prosecutor to get whatever outcome he or 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." "A grand jury would indict a ham sandwich," or so the saying goes. Well let me explain. Anytime any other citizen defends themselves. 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 … 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 … Indict A Ham Sandwich T-Shirt. A demonstrator carries a picture of Michael Brown during a protest along Florissant Avenue on Aug. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. 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.”. 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. They were all the more so because they were not all that surprising. Your email address will not be published. It is an old joke that a Grand Jury would indict a ham sandwich if you wanted them to. 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 … That is why the common phrase “the government can indict a ham sandwich” is so often quoted. He ends up having to stand up in front of a jury and try to make the ham sandwich a case for conviction. He also didn't want a non-indictment. 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. And you'll never see this message again. An old saw holds that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. In legal circles, the saying is that prosecutors, before a grand jury, could indict a ham sandwich if they wanted too. In most cases, a grand jury is a supple tool in the hands of a prosecutor bent on an indictment. Not when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in Ferguson. However, in the case of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the prosecutor doesn’t … Slate relies on advertising to support our journalism. He will fail. 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. 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. When they don’t get those indictments, they don’t want to get them,” he said. Exculpatory forensic evidence was presented. a case that is a sure loser. 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. “A grand jury could ‘indict a ham sandwich,’ but apparently not a white police officer,” wrote the U.K.’s Independent. And St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch did not want an indictment. Fernow said it's uncommon for a grand jury not to indict. 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. 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. … However, in the case of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the prosecutor … I think Mr. McCulloch, the prosecutor, handled matters professionally and competently. What he can indict a ham sandwich why not indict this officer it. Prosecutors can get a grand jury to indict a “ham sandwich” as the famous New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler once said. I don’t think it’s very difficult to figure out what that was. indict a ham sandwich. 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. “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.” In the Ferguson case involving the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Officer Darren Wilson was invited to testify. 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. 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. The Flames of Ferguson and the Grilling of the DA. 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. DIGITALLY DEFENDED BY CYBERLICIOUS, Ferguson, Grand Jury, and Indicting a Ham Sandwich. 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.”. They have just recently just killed another young 12-year-old in Cleveland, Ohio, with a toy gun. If you value our work, please disable your ad blocker. 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 … 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. Unprocessed rape kits are not a problem in Idaho, despite what the media says. Garner's last words, as Amy Davidson points out in … Follow @lexiconvalley on Twitter or on Facebook. ... can get a grand jury to "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. Finally, keep this in mind: It has often been said that a decent prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich. No sane prosecutor would indict a ham sandwich – i.e. By joining Slate Plus you support our work and get exclusive content. 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. Prosecutors have a vast amount of leeway and control when it comes to grand jury proceedings. He or she presents the evidence along with some witness testimony to make a case for indictment, and the jurors vote on it. Regardless of whether it was pastrami or ham, Wachtler got to observe the sandwich-making process from both sides of the lunch counter. When they don’t get those indictments, they don’t want to get them,” he said. All contents © 2021 The Slate Group LLC. And St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch did not want an indictment. Prosecutors Who Can’t Indict a Ham Sandwich. The point being that a grand jury proceeding is heavily biased toward the prosecution. Tweet Share Copy Arts & Entertainment Books ... can get a grand jury to "indict a ham sandwich." You can cancel anytime. Michael Steele, an African-American and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, explained it this way in an appearance on MSNBC: "They tell … Amazon.de/Fashion: Kostenlose Lieferung und Rückgabe. “A good DA can indict a ham sandwich, when they want to. 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.”. 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. Before swearing in O’Keefe on January 15, 2015, Judge O’Neill gave a short speech. 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 … asked Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson. The “ham sandwich” got some more cultural cachet when Tom Wolfe included the saying in the 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. 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. The Purpose Of The Ferguson Grand Jury Was Not To Get An Indictment. they say you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Where did that delicious, evocative phrase come from? “If a jury can indict a ham sandwich, why is it taking so long?” asked Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson. 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. The no-indictment decision was the final criminal word on the matter. 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. 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. 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. The joke is that most prosecutors could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. “A good DA can indict a ham sandwich, when they want to. Of all the unlikely things to indict, why this one? 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.” 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. You’ve run out of free articles. will this one be that easy? 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 … Ferguson and Michael Brown . In 1993, he was indicted for extortion and other crimes. 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 … ‘If you can indict a ham sandwich, why can’t you indict Officer Wilson?’ News & Politics. The point being that a grand jury proceeding is heavily biased toward the prosecution. 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. 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. Except, apparently, in Ferguson and New York. “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 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. By Albert B. Kelly. The Purpose Of The Ferguson Grand Jury Was Not To Get An Indictment. Darren Wilson is the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teen Mike Brown in August, sparking waves of protest. 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. 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