On 20 November 2015, the Italian Supreme Court finally
brought to an end the so-called “L’Aquila Trial” (see Appendix
A), which concerned a meeting of experts that took place in
L’Aquila on 31 March 2009, under the prompt of the Italian
National Civil Protection (NCP).
For varied reasons, among which certainly was the fact
that all official documentation related to the L’Aquila trial was
in Italian language, much of the international discussion was
based on second hand sources and thus inevitably susceptible to
be easily influenced by the spreading of imprecise information
(see Appendix B).
In this brief opinion paper, we thus try to clarify some
issues regarding this controversial case that we feel were not
adequately emphasized or touched upon in past discussions on
this subject, as well as to share our views on the consequences
that this trial has had on the way seismic risk is perceived and
acted upon by Italian society.
The full paper can be found at
One of the five judges of the Court made a very careful summary of the trial: allegations, first degree sentence, second degree sentence, complaints to the Supreme Court presented by: the defendant De Bernardinis (requiring to be acquitted), the Department of Civil Protection (same), the L’Aquila Prosecutor (requiring for the other six defendants the same sentence given to De Bernardinis), the relatives of the victims (same). He put in evidence the main points about which there are conflicting views.
Then spoke the General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court. Her duty was to state whether the arguments of the Appeal Court were correct or not, in the light of the recourses. The main points were:
- the Appeal Court is right qualifying the 31 march meeting as an experts meeting and not a Major Risks Committee (MRC) meeting. Therefore, the laws concerning MRC do not apply;
- however, this is of secondary importance, as the Court went into details of how the participants performed;
- on the other hand, no precautional regulations exist for such a meeting (and, by the way, neither for MRC meetings);
- the prosecutor agrees with the Appeal Court that the defendants performed well, in the meeting, from a scientific point of view;
- as for the so called “energy discharge theory”, in the meeting it was said that an earthquake swarm does not increase, nor decrease, the probability of a large earthquake significantly. This simply contradicts the previous mentioned “theory”;
- the scientific contents of the evaluations performed during the meeting are not different with respect to what has been communicated after the meeting. Barberi spoke of always impending earthquake; local Civil Protection Head, Stati, announced emergency services h24 and the Mayor Cialente asked the Government to declare emergency at L’Aquila;
- De Bernardinis did mention after the meeting that “no magnitude increase was foreseen”; however, all victims do not refer to it but to the interview before the meeting. The other defendants did not know about that and, therefore, they could not speak against it.
As for De Bernardinis, in the view of the Prosecutor he is guilty for the interview; in addition, he had the opportunity of modifying his statement but he did not. There is no involvement by the media: the interview was broadcasted as a whole, including the part where it is said that this interview was given before the meeting. In addition, the reference by De Bernardinis to what he said he knew from the “scientific community” was easily understandable as referred to the experts gathering at L’Aquila.
There are attenuating circumstances; the subject receiving the information acts in an individual way; moreover, this case is opposite to the case of Sarno’s flood, where peopole was explicitly suggested to stay home.
At the end, the prosecutors asks for:
- the complaints of the L’Aquila prosecutor, De Bernardinis and the Civil Protection to be rejected;
- the civil parts complaints against the six defendants, to be rejected;
- some of the complaints of against De Bernardinis (victims preciously not considered by the appeal Court), to be accepted.
After the next round of talks (civil parts and defendants’ lawyers, the sentence will be pronounced tomorrow.