A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the Italian Seismologists’ Appeal Proceedings. As you recall, six Italian scientists and an ex-government official who were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison, plus a permanent ban from civil service, because of the 2009 deadly earthquake in L’Aquila.
They started the appeal of their convictions a year and a half ago, and now we have the results. The UK’s Guardian has this headline: L’Aquila earthquake scientists win appeal . Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
A court has upheld the appeals of six scientists and an official against their convictions for having given criminally negligent reassurances to the population of the city of L’Aquila before it was devastated by an earthquake five years ago. But the judges endorsed a conviction and two-year sentence passed on one of the defendants, Bernardo De Bernardinis, on a connected charge.
“Upheld the appeals”? Maybe that’s how the Brits say it. We would say something like “ruled for the defendants” or “overturned the convictions.” Anyway, we’re not told about Bernardo’s “connected charge,” so that remains a mystery. Oh, wait — in our earlier post we quoted an article claiming that:
[Bernardo said] that “the scientific community tells me there is no danger because there is an ongoing discharge of energy” — a statement that most seismologists deem incorrect. Although no such statement appears in the minutes of the meeting that followed, the judge argued in 2012 that the other six defendants did nothing to contradict De Bernardinis’s words, and did not sufficiently highlight the probability of a strong earthquake and its possible consequences.
Too bad for Bernardo. Then we’re told:
The announcement of the verdicts was met with cries of “Disgrace” from members of the public in court.
Huh? We assume they’re talking about the original verdicts of guilt. Let’s read on:
The original verdicts had sparked worldwide condemnation as scientists protested that it was impossible for even the most experienced seismologists to forecast an earthquake. The seven men – members of an official major risks committee – each faced six-year jail sentences on charges of multiple manslaughter and negligence leading to grievous bodily harm. They had also been ordered to pay more than €9m (£7m) in damages to survivors of the disaster, which left 309 people dead.
Yeah, that had to be a reference to the guilty verdicts. We continue:
Before retiring to consider their verdicts, the judges of the L’Aquila appeals court heard a dramatic final plea from one of the seismologists, Giulio Selvaggi. “I think there is nothing more important for a seismologist to do in a seismic country than to put him – or herself at the disposal of society to help understand what is happening. I went into the meeting on 31 March 2009 with that conviction and I would go back with it today,” he told the court.
Okay, that’s the story. For now, it’s safe to be a seismologist in Italy — somewhat. Don’t forget that Bernardo is still convicted. This entire situation is a national disgrace — at least in our Curmudgeonly opinion. If preachers were judged as harshly, how many would have gone to prison for falsely predicting the end the world?
Addendum: This article at PhysOrg has additional information:
The judges partially upheld some of the charges against one defendant, Bernardo De Bernardinis but downgraded his sentence to a two-year suspended prison sentence that will not lead to him having a criminal record.
That’s good to hear. But it’s not over yet. PhysOrg also says:
The precise reasons for the verdict will not be made clear until the full written judgement is released in several months’ time. The prosecution may seek to have the convictions reinstated via a final appeal to a higher court.
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