Conclusion, with lessons and rhapsody (M. Stucchi)

Conclusion. The appeal trial has come to an end, with the conclusion we know. First of all, the appeal sentence has given back to the defendants the dignity they deserve as persons who performed well their job, after having worked for years assessing the earthquake risk and trying and convincing people and administrators that it is worth to mitigate it. We now wait for the motivation and we respect the sorrow of the victims’ families; in the same way as we always did it, asking us – well before L’Aquila – whether we always did  the best we could. We also respect other’s opinions; we always said that sentences can be discussed. Simply, we would like that all interpretations could put the pieces in the right order, avoiding slow-motion reconstructions biased by the occurrence of the earthquake. Someone hopes that parts could reconcile; better, we may welcome the start of a serious discussion on the main issues. Probably it would be more effective if such a discussion is performed by less engaged people with respect to the last four years. The blog will survive to share the existing documents and to host possible updates. We thank contributors and readers.

Lessons. Many have discussed of the so-called “L’Aquila lesson”. Some have written heavier sentences than the judge; some have drawn watersheds, built up theories, etc. Among scientists, some helped the prosecutor directly; some said that the jail was too much, but, yes, the “Aquila seven” did some mistakes. Most of them only read the Motivation, what was not an easy task, of course; but it does not represent all the truth, as it is nothing else that the explanation of how the judge came to the decision and which material he used. An important “paper”, of course, which, however, does not take into account most of the material proposed by the defendants and other possible interpretations. Many of them will have to review their position (some already tried to jump on the winners’ chariot); and there is nothing worst than a teacher who has to change his teaching, because wrong.
I do not want to join teachers here; only some hints. First of all, it seems  from the appeal sentence  that a statement of the first degree trial is coming out as invalid: the one of the judge saying that “the statement that the only defense against the earthquake is represented by reinforcing buildings is so obvious, so useless” and it does not represent anything else than a “clause of style”. Contrary to it, one lesson could be that we can start again discussin about how to mitigate seismic risk, after five years of blackout.
The other one, not new but more clear now, is that earthquake risk mitigation must start from the citizen, forgetting the idea that it must come from above (State, local administrations, Major Risk Committee, earthquake forecasters, etc.) only; and that, when somthing goes wrong, we have to find someone else guilty, always. How many of those who discuss about earthquake risk do know whether their house is safe? Isn’t it better to know it before than after? Our homes can be made safer; this can be learned in schools, more than to bring students to the trial, as happened in L’Aquila.

Rhapsody. The issue of the [missing] “analysis of earthquake risk”, opposite to the missed earthquake prediction, is one of the refrains of the first degree sentence. The more one reads it, the more he finds out that the judge is in a dead end, may be with the help of his scientific consultants.

p. 265. “Obviously, we do not want to say that, on the basis of the historical data, the earthquake of 6 April could have been forecasted or that, on the basis of the historical data, the defendants should have raised alerts or evacuate the whole city” [why the city only?]

p.268. “Obviously, we do not want to say that, on the basis of the analysis of the lenght of the swarm , the earthquake of 6 April could have been forecasted or that, on the basis of such analysis, the defendants should have raised alerts of impending earthquakes to the citizenship or evacuate the whole city

p.280. “Obviously, we do not want to say that, on the basis of seismic hazard maps or the probabilistic studies, the earthquake of 6 April could have been forecasted or that, on the basis of such studies, the defendants should have raised alerts of impending earthquakes or evacuate the whole city”

p. 290. “Obviously, we do not want to say that, on the basis of the vulnerability data, the earthquake of 6 April could have been forecasted or that, on the basis of the those data, the defendants should have raised alerts of impending earthquakes or evacuate the whole city” [impending earthquakes on the basis of vulnerability data? strange]

p. 300. “Obviously, we do not want to say that, on the basis of the exposure data, the earthquake of 6 April could have been forecasted or that, on the basis of those data the defendants should have raised alerts of impending earthquakes or evacuate the whole city”.

After each one of these statements the Sentence writes (cut&paste):
“the judgement of  predictability did not have as a goal the earthquake as natural event, but the analysis of the earthquake risk according to parameters well known to the defendants, such as R = P x V x E”.

We stop here: we do hope that damage cause by such approach can be repaired soon; that “do it yourself” seismologists can go back in the dark, and that earthquake risk can be studied again in schools and universities, for true.


Comments to the Appeal sentence

Max 11 November 11 2014 at 10:00
Ina, unfortunately this is partially true, only. Part of INGV did not support his colleagues, someone explicitly condemned them while others are getting back now to jump on the “winners chariot”.
Part of the Italian scientific community, and namely many Boschi’s “ennemies”, did not support at all and were satisfied with the first degree sentence. The same for part of the international community. Some of them gathere in the so-called ISSO

based (!) in the office of a lawyer of the victims in Teramo. They count on Kossobokov, Panza, Stoppa, Udias, Mualchin, De Vivo, Alexander among the others. The supplied the counterpart of the L’Aquila 7 with eyewitnesses, material, ideas etc. and write a letter to Science (never published) to counter the one by Boschi (published).

Last but not least, many international papers (Alexander, Jordan, the recent Yeo among the others) found that yes, may be the sentence was heavy but actually the L’Aquila 7 were guilty in some way because the were negligent. Most of these thoughts were formulated without carefully reading the documents of the trial (a huge work, I admit) or only reading the Sentence taken as the truth, while it is only the description of the arguments used by the judge (who forgot or dismissed) a lot of material.
I hope that this sentence will cause some changes in their minds.

The Appeal sentence (2)

The court has found Boschi, Barberi, Calvi, Eva, Selvaggi, Dolce not guilty (the formula is “the allegation does not stand”). This simply means that the “house of cards” built up by the first degree Prosecutor and  Judge has been dismantled (guilty collaboration and causative connection).

De Bernardinis has been sentenced two years for being found guilty with reference to about half of the victims with respect to the previous sentence. The court also decided that  his sentence will  be suspended. The motivation will be published in 90 days, as usual. The lawyers of the victims relatives announced that they will ask for the third degree trial (High Court).

Victims relatives strongly protested in front of the court and outside the building, decrying  a sentence as one of a  State  not able to punish himself and making even more negative comparisons with other recent trials. A teacher has taken the class to listen to the first hearing and to he sentence; not to the defenders talks, “because it was clear that they are guilty”.  Giuliani was also attending.

The text of the sentence, in Italian, is found here:

The last hearing of the Appeal trial (2)

After the call of the attending persons, G. Selvaggi reads a statement. He recalls the work he made since the beginning of his career, that is monitoring earthquakes and earthquake swarms, in order to better understand earthquakes. He still does the same job after almost 30 years. Then he introduces the seismic hazard map, developed by INGV, which became an official reference of the State in 2006 with a Prime Minister Ordnance. This map is the ultimate result of all studies for the assessment of seismic hazard. It is well conceived, simple and easy to be understood with its 12 colours. L’Aquila is in the highest class, violet. Says that he would say again what he said on March 31, 2009. Remembers the victims.

Dinacci, lawyer of De Bernardinis and Dolce. The key point is the causative connection. Nobody can prove for sure that the victim were reassured. How many the victims? How nmany yhe persons who were not reassured? A pain cannot be extenguished with another pain. Are their other trial where scientista have been sentenced for not having evalutated the earthquake risk? The sentence makes use of circular thoughts, that is the worst that can be done in a trial; it does it because it is the only way to get the defendants guilty. It is not true that in the night of the earthquakes peopole changed their habits. On March 30 people went out and came back home, and earthquakes went on the whole night. After the 31, newspapers say that people are getting crazy. De Bernardinis says to the interviewer that he cannot do the miracle of reassuring. Asks for De Bernardinis and Dolce to be free.

Coppi, lawyer of Selvaggi. Each person is responsible of what he says and does. The Prosecutor says that the earthquake risk was not correctly evaluated and therefore some people were reassured. So, how did Selvaggi with respect to this? Why was he at L’Aquila? His phrases did reassure? The charge of not evaluated the earthquake risk is ridiculous for persons who spent their lives on that. Selvaggi said the earthquakes cannot be forecasted and presented the seismic hazard map. 15 days before he said the earthquake swarms do not increase or decrease the earthquake probability; we have to take care of the buildings. He was chargend of bringing in his knowdlege. The meeting was called because of the indiscriminate alerts which were raised by many persons. Stati asks “so can we reassure the people?” Barberi says” we cannot predict earthquakes, the sequence is not a precursor; simply, it drives the attention to an area where, SOON or LATER, there will be a damaging earthquake.
The trial was held in a very fair atmosphere. We regret for the victims. Selvaggi is not responsible, I ask him to be free.

The Sentence is expected between 16h and 17h.

5. About the communication and the expert meeting output: part 2 (M. Stucchi and G. Cavallo)

The main episodes of communication AFTER the 31 March 2009 meeting

We come back to this issue, because we feel that it is crucial for understanding the real, possible impact of the meeting on the citizen. Many of those who commented on the trial are dealing with second hand sources, such as the Motivation of the sentence (yes, it is not an objective source, because the judge is only supposed to outline the logical procedure which led to his sentence. He is not requested to produce any contrary evidence, or the objections of the Defence he could not convincingly answer), or newspapers (same problem), or papers, which often provide just an interpretation of facts. So, there is a general tendency to state that there was a problem of communication from the CGR. Let us have a look to it.

After the meeting there were four episodes of communication:

1) 31 March, after the meeting – Press conference of D. Stati (Regional Assessor to Civil Protection, host of the meeting); M. Cialente, Mayor of L’Aquila; F. Barberi (Chairman of the CGR); B. De Bernardinis (deputy director of the National Civil Protection). Boschi and Selvaggi had not been invited; Eva did not attend; Dolce and Calvi attended sitting with the public.

It is not known whether some local TV broadcast the conference: probably not, or at most a few words only, extracted from the context (more solito), were broadcasted. During the first trial, only the video record of the press conference was available, no audio !. [see the note 1 below]

2) 31 March, after the meeting. Interview to F. Barberi, by the local TV “Abruzzo24ore”. The Italian full text is reported in the Motivation ( Here we summarize:

First question: “is it possible to forecast earthquakes?” Barberi answers that it is not

Second question: “so what about the investigator who forecasts the earthquakes [Giuliani]? A hoax?”. Barberi answers that a good investigator has to publish his results on scientific journals, to sent them to Civil Protection, etc.

Third question: “so what is the seismic risk at L’Aquila”? Barberi answers that this was discussed in the meeting…..that earthquake swarms rarely end up in a large earthquake….but this does not allow to say that there a strong earthquake can be excluded.

3) 31 March, after the meeting. Interview to B. De Bernardinis by local TV “TV Uno”. The Italian full text is reported in the Motivation ( Here we summarize:

De Bernardinis says “First of all, we are struggling hard, Barberi first and Bertolaso after him, to mitigate the vulnerability of the building. Next, at this stage it is not possible to make any forecast on historical o statistical basis…..Finally, the organization of the Civil Protection at national and local level is very important.”

Journalist. “you were talking of acceleration and intensities. How can you, on that basis, plan [sic] a seismic event, without obviously forecasting it, after the hoaxes of the recent days?”

De Bernardinis says: “this is to be asked to the CGR members, I am an officer. But I can say that we made progress on the understanding of the earthquake parameters and behaviour of the buildings

Journalist “which is the situation of the building seismic safety at L’Aquila?”

De Bernardinis: (the answer is not very clear). Says that with the current shaking there was some damage. Earthquake resistance should be improved, anyhow.

Journalist: “How many buildings, schools etc. can be considered seismic safe?”

De Bernardinis: This is to be asked to the experts [!]. What I can say is that we are doing our best to improve seismic safety everywhere in Italy, mostly for schools.


4) 31 March, after the meeting. Interview to M. Cialente, Mayor of L’Aquila, by local TV “Abruzzo24ore”. The Italian full text is reported in the Motivation ( Here we summarize:

Journalist: “which is the output of this important meeting?

Cialente: First I have to thank the Civil Protection, the CGR, the Assessor Stati. The conclusion is that we cannot predict earthquakes and we cannot foresee their evolution. The swarm consists of many earthquakes that we feel, although damage to buildings is little. Now we will take care of getting funding for the emergency

Journalist: “the students of the “De Amici” school [closed] will be moved?”

Cialente: we have started considering varied options in order to minimize the impact on families

Journalist: “let’s come back to the alert. Let’s imagine that someone phones to you introducing himself as a scientist, saying that in about eight hours there will be a devastating earthquake at L’Aquila. Nobody would like to stand in your shoes, then…”

Cialente: I cannot answer that there will not an earthquake. I would like it would be possible…

Journalist: “of course not, just to explain….”

Cialente: yes, we are alone when taking decisions. Sometimes concerning the snow, we can close a school. But we are in touch with the Civil Protection. We cannot predict earthquakes, the snow may be, but earthquake not.

There was also an interview released by Ms Stati, Assessor to Regional Civil Protection, which is not mentioned at this point of the Motivation. Again, she stressed that nobody could tell whether there will be a major earthquake or not, that evacuation, crisis, emergency plans were being readied, that the operation room remained open etc.

As anybody can notice, there are no reassuring phrases in these interviews. The concept of energy discharge does not appear any longer, not even from De Bernardinis. The newspapers in the following days are not reassuring. The Mayor Cialente asked for the emergency to be declared.
It is completely useless to discuss the content of the minutes and the draft minutes of the meeting, because they were released only AFTER the earthquake of April 6; they could not have any impact on the people. All the scientific matters discussed in the meeting are of little importance for the problem of who reassured whom, and if. The discussion of scientific issues, performed by the prosecutor and the judge, is only smoke for the public eyes.
Most witnesses make reference to the interview to De Bernardinis (the one before the meeting). This means that the media had their (important) part in the message which arrived to the people and that, probably, some persons made a filtering of what they received, unconsciously selecting what they preferred to keep.


Note 1. Soon after the Motivation of the Sentence was released – that is well after the end of the first trial, a national TV emission “Presa Diretta” showed some images of the conference and – as miracle – the audio of a sentence appeared, where De Bernardinis states that “an increase of magnitude was unlikely to happen”. Of course, the context of this phrase is not known, that is, whether it was preceded or followed by an explanation. Moreover, we do not see traces of it in the local press after the meeting.
At the Appeal trial the prosecutor asked for this portion of video to be inserted among the documents. The defense objects that it was a part, only; the court decided to accept it.

The fifth hearing of the Appeal trial

The last defendant lawyer (Musco for Calvi), mentioned that most of those persons who analysed the sentence in a critical way, from inside the law sector, found it very weak from the point of view of the logical sequence inside it. Recalls the hearing of Calvi, when he declared that he was asked to analyse the accelerations recorded during the earthquake sequence, no more than that. He made an assessment of the pssible damage related to those events. His duty was to act as a consultant to Civil Protection. He did not take part in any press conference, he only attended to one. You judges cannot sentence a person who did not violate any rule. Says that the notion of risk which has been used in the sentence is a “trial creation”: V of the formula R = P x V x E could not be evaluated in a meeting. The sa called “causative connection” should be know in advance by someone to be sentenced as guilty: the so called “theory of the social representations”, instead, was invented after the earthquake, therefore its application violates the principle of retroactivity. Asks for Calvi to be released by the charge.

Then the General Prosecutor announces that he has decided to counter comment. This means that all the lawyers (civil parts and defendants) have the right to to do the same. Therefore, the Sentence will be released on November 10.

He start stressing that some defendant lawyers have used strong words, mostly the State lawyers. For him is was a meeting of the CGR; what is important is the role taken by the participants, who have been unwise. The energy discharge has not be mentioned in the minutes, yes: but then why nobody objected to this statement? The participants knew that the meeting was an open one. On April 6 Eva said that the earthquake was something that could be expected: then the risk was known [!]. Concludes saying that he believes that all witnesses are reliable.

Gentili, defending civil parts. The defendants have arbitrarily assumed the duties of CGR. The message which came out, although may be in a “bizantine” form”, was that the swarm will continue as such, that citizen have to get accustomed to it and that it may last long time. You have made citizenship without weapons against the earthquake. How can you say that the swarm will not end up in a major quake ? [nobody said this, btw]. There is no doubt about the guilty cooperation among the defendants. Recalls some witnesses and ask the sentence to be confirmed.

Di Rocco, defending civil parts. People did not die by chance. To analyse the risk does not mean to forecast the earthquake. Says that the meeting od April 6, soon after the earthquake, confirmed the statement of the meeting of 31 march. Quotes the meeting of CGR on the earthquakes of 2012, which was different [forgets to mention that  such meeting it took place AFTER the earthquakes]. After the 31 March meeting Barberi called Bertolaso and said the did what they should have done. Barberi was seen together with Bertolaso at a conference on the morning of March 31.

Stefàno, defending Eva. What Eva said on April 6 is not new. The seismic hazard map was adopted by the State with the Prime Minister Ordnance 3519 in 2006, therefore it has to be considered as known. Recalls that the judge did not consider the hearing of Leone at all and that, with respect to the hearing of Cialente, he inserted among ” ” a phrase that Cialente never said. Cialente intended to visit the State Secretary of the Prime Minister on April 6, together with Stati; this show that he was not reassured at all. The “guilty cooperation” cannot  be supported because there was no individual guilty behavior; also the sentence says that.

Petrelli, defending Barberi. From the documents it is clear that nothing “reassuring” came out form the defendants. Nobody succeeded proving the defendants behavior as guilty. The Major, after the 31 March meeting, asked for the emergency to be declared; this explains very well what he learned from the meeting. As for the “causal connection”, in a trial we discuss facts; therefore, the so-called “theory of the social representations” has to be left out.

Melandri, defending Boschi. We must here respond to what has been proposed by Prosecutor and civil parts. I do not want to talk about Ciccozzi and the bees again [Ciccozzi, anthropologist, said that seismologists used the term “sciame” (swarm, but also hive) to describe the sequence because it is reassuring, as the bees deliver honey….]. The “energy discharge” was said before the meeting, not after. Who should have corrected it? Boschi could not correct anybody, he was not attending the press conference. He said that the swarm is not a precursor, and he confirms it. Said that this area is one of the most active in Europe, what else? He said “I cannot exclude a major earthquake”. Di Rocco says that scientists followed the will of the boss [Bertolaso]. Actually they did not follow him, they did not mention the energy discharge. And the Major Cialente asks anybody for help: was he reassured? The commission has no communicating duties.

The sixt (and probably last hearing) will take place in L’Aquila on November 10.



The fourth hearing of the Appeal trial

The fourth hearing started on October 24, with the pleading of Petrelli, defending Barberi.
He started remembering the so-called “theory of social representations” developed by anthropologist Ciccozzi, which served as “covering scientific law” to assess the causal connection between defendants initiatives and casualties in the first trial. Denying the value of such a law, Petrelli said that it was the “sick fruit” of the trial. Instead, the trial itself could be considered a “representation” where facts have been replaced by interpretations. One example of this was the “expansion” of the “Major Risks Commission”, arbitrarily performed by Prosecutor and Judge, which brought to the inconsistency of having DPC officials indicted for not having supplied useful information to DPC (therefore to themselves).
The prosecution and the sentence mix up hazard and risk, and many statements have been taken out from their context; this is unfair. The Sentence motivation speaks about victims as they “where induced to stay at home”. There was no direct action concerning this: once again the motivation is providing a “representation” of what really happened.
There are several contradictions in the motivation. The judge says, “the scrutiny of the defendants behavior has not to be evaluated through scientific rules or the consistency of the relevant issues or the share they have throughout the scientific community”. Then he spends pages on telling which scientific arguments the defendants should have considered. Petrelli quotes a law saying that the judge has no right to propose his own scientific views. Laws ruling the Commission are not prescriptive.
In the meeting minutes there are no reassuring statements. Assessor Stati asks Barberi if they have to pay attention to the several alerts from varied sources and Barberi says no. At that point Stati says “so I can go and reassure..”
The statement of the judge, affirming that “to say that the only way to reduce seismic risk is to improve the safety of the building is so obvious, so useless” is catastrophic. Do it in Genova now [after the recent flood] and see which will be the answer. A very bad page of the Italian justice.
The L’Aquila Major, Cialente, asked for emergency status to be declared the day after the meeting, asks to send more firemen and says that the seismic risk at L’Aquila is very high: he has not been “doped” to calm, as the Prosecutor say for the citizen.
Newspapers after the 31 March meeting report: “L’Aquila is on emergency”; “evacuation tests”; “lot of nerve”; “people in the streets”; “people sleep in the cars” etc. This is the true social representation of the events, with the addition of some type of “we are getting accustomed”. Just contrary to what Ciccozzi said, that the Commission delivered the rule of staying at home in the occasion of strong shakings!
Petrelli finally asks Barberi to be released from the accusation.


Then Dinacci, defending De Bernardinis and Dolce.
To discuss a trial on risk is difficult. Earthquake sequences are not precursors, the earthquake fault was not known before. The perception of the media messages is highly personal. In the last 30 years there were about 30 earthquakes felt at L’Aquila: people report they went out few times. On March 30 (before the meeting) people went out but came back home spontaneously.
Giuliani said the swarm was to be finished by the end of March. The famous interview to De Bernardinis was given before the meeting, while the interviewer asked to broadcast it after (permission denied). Why the judge states it is the “Manifesto” of the meeting, when the next interview was different? The sentence uses “circular” statements, what is not allowed in a sentence. Dolce and De Bernardinis represented the commitment of the meeting. The book written by Dolce is a separate item, not involved in the trial. The responsible person for the emergency communication is the Major, and he did not reassure anybody.

Asks for De Bernardinis and Dolce to be released from the accusation.


Finally Melandri, defending Boschi.
Remembers the pleading of Valentini, civil parts lawyer, mostly against Boschi. The Sentence never mentions a single statement from the defense. It is not true that the defendants are not accused for not having predicted the earthquake, they are, and there is at least one point of the sentence where this is clearly stated. Remembers the press release of March 30 denying future earthquakes, which started this nightmare. The famous interview to De Bernardinis has to be looked at, not only listened. Boschi did not attend to the press conference after the meeting (the one without audio record), nor was invited. They did not mention “energy discharge”; all civil parts say that they have been reassured by such statement.
Ciccozzi says that the Commission used a reassuring term (“sciame” = swarm; in Italian it is used also for “hive”, with reference to bees): bees produce honey, which is sweet. Cialente on April 2 says that the “energy discharge” is a hoax (leggenda metropolitana). On the opposite, the University Rector and prof. Moretti released reassuring interviews.

Asks for Boschi to be released from the accusation.

Finally Boschi gives a short note concerning his paper of 1995 and his statement on the return period of the earthquakes on the main faults.


The next hearing will be on October 31. If time will allow, there will be the sentence, too.