I have previously reported on the conviction of seven Italian scientists over their handling of community warnings regarding the risk of earthquake – see
- Disaster really brings law into disrepute (June 3, 2011).
- Italian Prosecution continues (September 21, 2011);
- Italian scientists convicted of manslaughter (October 23, 2012); and
- Italian scientists appeal convictions for failing to warn of earthquake (March 23, 2013)
It is now being reported that the Appeal Court has set aside those convictions: – see
- L’Aquila quake: Scientists see convictions overturned (BBC News Europe, 10 November 2014).
- Updated: Appeals court overturns manslaughter convictions of six earthquake scientists (ScienceInsider, 10 November 2014); and
- Manslaughter Conviction for Italian Earthquake Scientists Overturned (Gizmodo)
The report form ScienceInsider says that although seven were originally convicted, only six won on appeal. That report says:
Only one of the seven experts originally found guilty was convicted today: Bernardo De Bernardinis, who in 2009 was deputy head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department and who will now serve 2 years in jail, pending any further appeals.
According to Gizmodo:
De Bernardinis was singled out because of comments he made to the press about how frequent tremors dissipating energy were a good sign, a discredited idea among seismologists.
The BBC report says:
The prosecution can still seek to have the original verdicts reinstated via a higher court.
So the matter may not yet be over.
There has been much written on this case – see ‘L’AQUILA’S EARTHQUAKE TRIAL: WEB DOCUMENTS ON THE INTERNATIONAL DEBATE’ for an index of web based documents.
One issue that is said to be confused is whether the scientists were convicted for failing to predict the earthquake (which they were not) or in their capacity as members of the hazard warning authority for failing to properly warn the community of inherent, albeit unpredictable risks. I have not been able to find the judge’s published reasons online and even if I did it may not be much help as I don’t read Italian nor know the details of Italian law (but see (see ‘Judge in L’Aquila Earthquake Trial Explains His Verdict‘, ScienceInsider, 21 January 20013), so I do have to rely on others. In that light for an interesting analysis of the case and the meaning of both the prosecution and conviction see:
- David E. Alexander (2013), ‘Communicating earthquake risk to the public: The trial of the “L’Aquila Seven”’, (2014) 72(2) Natural Hazards 1159-1173
- Franco Gabrielli and Daniela Di Bucci (2014), ‘Comment on ‘‘Communicating earthquake risk to the public: the trial of the ‘L’Aquila Seven’’’ by David E. Alexander’, Natural Hazards, DOI 10.1007/s11069-014-1322-1