Indicting a Ham Sandwich


I was watching the news about the Duke lacrosse players, before two were indicted and subsequently arrested. One of the defense lawyers said: “In North Carolina, you can indict a ham sandwich.”

I wondered abou the origins of that phrase, but I didn’t have to look too far. Sol Wachtler, who was New York State’s top judge, once said district attorneys now have so much influence on grand juries that “by and large” they could get them to “indict a ham sandwich.” Specifically, he noted, “Even a modestly competent district attorney can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.”

Interestingly, seven years after the former Court of Appeals Judge made this pronouncement in 1985, a grand jury indicted him for sexual harassment.

The phrase went into popular use after Tom Wolfe used it in the 1987 book, Bonfire of the Vanities.
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From Truthout e-mail of 5/4/06:
“Cindy Sheehan writes that she (and every single other individual on this planet working for peace and justice) is often accused of being “anti-American” for dissenting against her feral government that has gone wild with lawlessness and greed,…”
Feral government: typo or intentional barb? After all, feral means: Funereal; deadly; fatal; dangerous OR Wild; untamed; ferine; not domesticated. Oh, the article is here.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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