One legal expert and some of the exonerated men say there was a key breakdown: the claims of the victims, all girls ages 13 to 16, were never properly sewn up. Prosecutors moved ahead based on interviews by investigators but didn't require the girls to give sworn statements or testify before a grand jury.
"You've just got to get it under oath," said Professor Henry Karlson, who teaches criminal law at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis. "If they're not willing to give you a sworn statement, then you know you have a problem from the beginning."
Nine of the 10 men walked away without convictions, but not without damage to their reputations and anger over the year or more they spent fending off the charges . . .
The allegations had to be taken seriously, Karlson said. But prosecutors had to be mindful that recanting is more common in such cases, he said, and that the accusers' criminal histories could hurt their credibility.
A grand jury or the use of signed affidavits could have safeguarded the cases, Karlson said.
Those steps allow the prosecutor to hold up the threat of perjury charges against a wavering witness.
Brizzi points to the positive changes which came about at the juvenile center as a result of the criminal probe. "The criminal charges spurred leadership changes and extensive security upgrades at the center," Murray writes. "Brizzi points to those and the exposure of other problems as positive results." That may be the case, but I suspect this is one case Brizzi will have a difficult time shaking when people assess his success or failure as the county's prosecutor, fair or not.