Indicting a Ham Sandwich
or a Haircut


Leonard Zwelling

         On January
31, 1985 on page 3 of the New York Daily News, a story by Marcia Kramer and
Frank Lombardi quotes New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler as saying that
“district attorneys now have so much influence on grand juries that…they could
get them to indict a ham sandwich.” It is interesting that the Jewish justice
picked a ham sandwich, but he was probably correct about the power of DAs. Here
in Texas it would have been a barbecue sandwich though.

         Recently (AUG
16) on the front page of that other New York daily, the New York Times, a
report by Manny Fernandez speaks of a less appetizing indictment
target—Governor Rick Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history and
now the first one to be indicted since 1917. He is charged with abuse of power
and coercion in trying to pressure the Travis County DA into resigning after
she was accused of and pled guilty to a DWI charge over a year ago. She refused
to quit and another grand jury didn’t make her do so. Then the Governor vetoed
a $7.5 million state allocation to an anti-corruption unit in the county DA’s
office. The Times points out that this is the same office looking into
allegations of criminal misconduct at CPRIT, one of Perry’s pet projects and
one that MD Anderson has had more than a passing interest in as well.

is getting interesting.

         What is
perhaps most interesting is that this proves that while you may or may not be
able to indict two pieces of bread with meat in between them, a haircut is
definitely fair game. It also proves that an indictment will surely get an
issue and a politician a lot of attention, usually unwanted (can you wait for
the mug shots? Move over Nick Nolte) as this could derail Perry’s second
attempt at the White House (or is that three? Two, three, who’s counting? Perry
probably thus the lack of precision.)

An indictment may assist in the pursuit of the truth
when it comes to allegations of misconduct, coercion and abuse of power.

         So is that
what the Faculty Senate ought to do next? Should that group suggest to the
Harris County DA a remedy sought by the Travis County DA when she thought she
was being treated unfairly and that the chief executive of the state had
overstepped the bounds of his office?

         I have no
idea whether or not conflicts of interest, nepotism, favoritism or self-dealing
on the part of state officials are indictable Harris County misdeeds, but
presenting them as possible evidence of malfeasance to a grand jury, might be a
good way to find out. If MD Anderson is going to continue to appear in the
headlines, not for its scientific and medical breakthroughs, but for the
misconduct of its faculty (remember we may have a trial coming up with doctor
on doctor violence under consideration) and/or its faculty’s leadership, let’s
get on with answering the ineluctable question: how bad has this gotten really?

Its history stretches back to Enron, ImClone and events including
the lack of adequate patient consent in clinical trials at Anderson over 13
years in the past, but now these reports of trouble at the top seem to be
developing a life of their own. What is expected of the leaders of the TMC
institutions and their faculties? Surely we can expect the leading medical
people in the leading medical center in the leading medical city to behave
better than politicians, can’t we?

I guess I shouldn’t care whether the DA is driving while
intoxicated, the governor is trying to strong-arm public officials or the
leaders of academia are trying to line their pockets.

The problem is, I do. 

Leonard Zwelling