A ham sandwich, as the saying goes, can be indicted in grand-jury proceedings completely overseen by prosecutors. But prosecutors shouldn’t have targeted Joel. The stress, expense and uncertainty of facing a first-degree manslaughter charge are devastating and can lead to an unjustified plea that could result in Joel going to prison.
Part of the trouble lies with New York’s “retreat doctrine.” A theory fit for law school classrooms, the doctrine holds Joel had a duty to run and hide if it was safe to do so. It’s an obligation Joel, like the vast majority of New Yorkers, had probably never heard of.
Yet it’s likely that the Queens DA will pursue precisely this avenue at trial, since the indictment states that Joel, “with intent to cause serious physical injury to Shamel Shavuo,” caused his death.