Tag Archives: L’Aquila

Italian appeals court overturns convictions of earthquake scientists

An Italian appeals court on Monday overturned the manslaughter convictions of six Italian earthquake scientist for the deaths of over 300 people during the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009.

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.

De Bernardinis had been the guy who had publicly said that the swarm of tremors prior to the quake had released energy and thus reduced the chance of an earthquake, a claim that geology scientists do not support.

The judge who sentenced seven earthquake scientists/officials in Italy to prison has released a detailed explanation for his verdict.

The judge who sentenced seven earthquake scientists/officials in Italy to prison has released a detailed explanation for his verdict.

The judge’s perspective is worth reading. It is not as foolish as some wish to make it appear. For one thing, he makes it very clear that

the trial was not against science but against seven individuals who failed to carry out their duty as laid down by the law. The scientists were not convicted for failing to predict an earthquake, something [Judge Marco] Billi says was impossible to do, but for their complete failure to properly analyse, and to explain, the threat posed by the swarm.

At the same time, I still think it very bad for the law and government to interfere in this kind of situation. For example, I think the actions of the climategate scientists were as improper (though they did not lead to anyone’s direct death). Yet, the last thing I want is for the government to prosecute them. Rather, I want the scientific community to condemn them instead, so that their careers as scientists suffer. Imprisonment is an over-reaction, and instead serves merely squelch open debate and honest scientific work, something I expect to happen now in Italy.

Reactions to the Italian conviction of seven earthquake scientists

Two reactions today to the Italian conviction of seven earthquake scientists:

In the first, scientists are appalled. In the second someone asks what I think is at least a reasonable question. Even if we agree that prison is an overreaction in this case, it does seem valid to me that scientists face some consequences for misstating risks in certain circumstances.

An Italian court has convicted seven earthquake scientists of manslaughter for their failure to properly warn the public prior to the L’Aquila earthquake.

An Italian court has convicted seven earthquake scientists of manslaughter for their failure to properly warn the public prior to the L’Aquila earthquake.

The court also sentenced the men to six years in prison, which is two years more than the prosecutor recommended.

The more I have read about this case, the less I have been in sympathy with the scientists. While it is absurd to expect any scientist to be able to precise predict the occurrence of an earthquake, in this case some of the individuals convicted had issued statements that actually go against basic earthquake science in order to give the public a false sense of safety. They claimed that the increased level of seismic activity suggested a reduction in the risk of an earthquake, when all research actually indicates the exact opposite.

Some additional details here.

The prosecutor in the Italian trial of seven earthquake experts has requested four year jail sentences for their failure to properly warn the public about the possibility of an earthquake

The prosecutor in the Italian trial of seven earthquake experts has requested four year jail sentences for their failure to properly warn the public in advance about the April 2009 L’Aquila earthquake.

The trial of seven earthquake scientists in Italy on charges of manslaughter for not correctly predicting the earthquake in L’Aquila continued yesterday with each of the defendants testifying.

The trial of seven earthquake scientists in Italy on charges of manslaughter for not correctly predicting the earthquake in L’Aquila continued yesterday with each of the defendants testifying.

The trial will not resume again until the fall.

The manslaughter trial of six scientists and one government official continued yesterday in Italy over their reassurances to the public prior to a deadly earthquake in 2009.

The manslaughter trial of six scientists and one government official continued yesterday in Italy over their reassurances to the public prior to a deadly earthquake in 2009.

Guido Bertolaso, former head of the Department of Civil Protection and De Bernardinis’s direct superior, had not been indicted and was originally expected to appear as a witness. But a few weeks ago a wiretap revealed that he had apparently set up the meeting to convey a reassuring message, regardless of the scientists’ opinion. He also seemed to be the source of the “discharge of energy” statement. He thus found himself under investigation and, at the beginning of the hearing, he was officially notified that he too may soon be formally indicted for manslaughter.

Bertolaso was asked by the prosecutor to explain that telephone conversation. He defended himself by saying that by defining the meeting as a “media move”, he was not trying to downplay risks but rather to put some order into the contradictory information that was reaching the citizens in those days. In particular, he referred to Giampaolo Giuliani — a laboratory technician and amateur seismologist who was alarming the population with claims that a major shock was coming — and to a newspaper article that had misquoted some Civil Protection experts and stated that the shocks would soon be over. The meeting, he said, was meant to make clear that both were wrong and that no deterministic prediction could be made. [emphasis mine]

This increasingly appears to be another case of science being corrupted by politics.

A wiretap could exonerate the six seismologists on trial for manslaughter in Italy for not properly warning the public of an earthquake.

Scientists on trial: A wiretap conversation might exonerate the six seismologists on trial for manslaughter in Italy for not properly warning the public of an earthquake.

The story behind the Italian prosecution of six scientists and one government official over an earthquake prediction

The story behind the Italian prosecution of six scientists and one government official over their failure to make an earthquake prediction.

As is usual in these kinds of stories, things are more complicated than they appear at first glance.