“The prosecutor can get the grand jury to indict a ham sandwich,” said zillions. Are grand juries really so eager to indict ham sandwiches? Any prosecutor worth his/her salt knows grand juries can be prickly, and are seldom impressionable enough to coerce into returning a true bill of indictment for deli meat or particularly weak cases. Still, it seems like some pundit, reporter, or TV character is always making the “ham sandwich” declaration. If I had a quarter for every time I heard it, I’d be rich—or at the very least, have enough money to buy a few dozen ham sandwiches. We can blame Sol Wachtler for introducing the phrase into the popular lexicon. Back in 1985, Wachtler was the newly appointed Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals when he told a reporter that prosecutors had such influence over grand juries they could convince them to “indict a ham sandwich.” Etymologist Barry Popik asked the former top judge about his comment. “Wachtler—who is Jewish—told me that he regrets that he didn’t say ‘pastrami sandwich,’ adding that he may (surely) have been misquoted about ‘ham,’ ” Popik writes. Wachtler also regrets stalking his ex-lover and threatening to kidnap her daughter—crimes that not only inspired an early episode of Law & Order but got him disbarred and earned him 10 months in the slammer in 1992. Today, he attributes that bizarre behavior (he dressed as a cowboy during his stalking stint) to bipolar disorder. Wachtler was reinstated to the bar […]
Jack McCoy has a habit of playing fast and loose with the rules. He also isn’t very fond of disclosure. Back when old Jack was Executive ADA his assistants often had to convince him to disclose favorable evidence to the defense. The lovely ladies weren’t soft-hearted; they were being pragmatic—and practicing safe law and following the Brady Rule (named for Brady v. Maryland), requires prosecutors to disclose materially exculpatory evidence in the government’s possession to the defense. According to the model rules of professional conduct (and a little old ruling by the Supreme Court), “a prosecutor in a criminal case is duty-bound to make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence known to the prosecutor that supports innocence or mitigates the offense.” In other words, if Jack has evidence that supports Jill’s contention of innocence, he is required by law to hand it over to her defense attorney.