This section contains the material of the former blog “Earthquakes and Great Risks”, on the so-called L’Aquila trial: altogether, 21 posts, mostly by G. Cavallo and M. Stucchi.
It has received the visits of several thousands of visitors from 98 countries.
Former Blog “Earthquakes and great risks” (2014-2015)
Opinions and material on the “L’Aquila Trial” (2010-2015) to the seven earthquake scientists and officials
Note. As explained below, some posts of the blog were intended to supply the international readers with correct information on the events and the trial, after having understood that wrong or simplified issues spread around even in peer reviewed papers. Many posts were written in a hurry, when listening to the hearings or at home between them. We apologize for the many mistakes and language imperfections.
- Earthquakes and great risks (foreword and goals)
- 1. What are the real allegations for the indicted scientists and officials? (M. Stucchi)
- 2. About the CGR and its duties (G. Cavallo and M. Stucchi)
- 3. The L’Aquila meeting of 31 March 2009 (M. Stucchi and G. Cavallo)
- The first hearing of the Appeal trial
- 4. About communication, glass of wine and the expert meeting output: part 1 (M. Stucchi and G. Cavallo)
- The second and third hearing of the Appeal trial (and about earthquake forecast and risk)
- An update by N. Nosengo, Italian science writer
- The fourth hearing of the Appeal trial
- The fifth hearing of the Appeal trial
- 5. About the communication and the expert meeting output: part 2 (M. Stucchi and G. Cavallo)
- The last hearing of the Appeal trial (2)
- The Appeal sentence (2)
- Comments to the Appeal sentence
- Conclusion, with lessons and rhapsody (M. Stucchi)
- The motivations of the Appeal Sentence have been deposited
- The Motivation of the Appeal Sentence: a Summary (Part 1 – M. Stucchi)
- A volume on the L’Aquila trial (in Italian)
- The hearing at the Supreme Court has started
- Six of the “L’Aquila seven” are free!
After The L’Aquila Trial (by Massimiliano Stucchi, Rui Pinho and Massimo Cocco)
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
Earthquakes and great risks (foreword and goals)
This blog is dedicated to present material and opinions concerning the trial to seven scientists and officials who were indicted for manslaughter after taking part in the so-called “Great Risk Commission” meeting at L’Aquila, 31 March 2009. Comments and discussion are welcome. Please, apologize illiteracies and consider that the authors do not easily handle English terms concerning the law; amendments are welcome.
The title stems from the name of the “Commissione Grandi Rischi” – hereafter CGR – usually translated as Great Risk or Major Risks Commission (in French Commission au Risques Majeurs”), whose full name sounds as “National Commission for the forecast and preventions of the Major Risks”. Four out of the seven indicted were members of this Committee, three not, but the trial became known as “Processo Grandi Rischi” or “Grandi Rischi Trial”.
The topics related to the trial, the sentence (22 October 2012) and its motivation (18 January 2013, more than 800 pages long) have been widely discussed in the press, media, scientific papers, books, etc. The website of the INGV support group, http://processoaquila.wordpress.com/, offers a collection of them, with the addition of documents, comments and opinions. The blog https://terremotiegrandirischi.com/, in Italian, also known as tegris2013, is devoted to present and discuss analysis and opinions from a broad spectrum of expertise (seismologists, engineers, experts of right, scientists in general); so far (27 September 2014) it offers 30 posts and it has been visited by readers of 75 countries. It was started in October 2013 and will still be implemented.
The main goal of the blog is to supply the public with correct information on the events and the trial. All the main, official documents concerning the trial (accusation, prosecution, sentence) are public but in Italian and, in most cases, rather long. Therefore, their content has often been spread around in summaries, small portions, pills, allowing but a very partial view. Correctly, Alexander (2014) points out that ‘‘much of the international reaction to the trial was misguided because it was based onincomplete, second-hand information about the proceedings.’’ (By the way, the same holds for the text of the witnesses’ interrogations and for most technical material, never considered by the press and the analysts).
In the Section “Documents” you will find the main material: the Allegation (3 June 2010, partly translated), the Prosecutors Allegation, The Sentence (22 October 2012, translated) and the Motivation of the Sentence (18 January 2013).
The first posts will be dedicated to clarify some controversial issues and frequent mistakes, spread around by the media and/or by careless analysts, such as:
- a) what are the real allegations for the indicted persons?
b) were the seven indicted all members of the CGR?
c) was the 31 March 2009 an official meeting of the Great Risks Commission (CGR) ?
d) when TV interview, known from the reference to the “glass of wine”, was performed and broadcasted?
e) In which way the conclusions of the meeting were communicated to the public?
and more. Comments and request of clarification of other topics will be appreciated.
Posts on https://terremotiegrandirischi.com/ cannot be easily translated into English. Some of them will be summarized: the indication of priorities will help.
The Appeal Process will start next 10 October 2014 in L’Aquila: prosecutor and judges will not be the same of the first round. The court will consist of three judges instead of one, as in the first round. This blog will also inform about the start and progress of the Appeal Process.
Alexander D.E., 2014. Communicating earthquake risk to the public: the trial of the ‘‘L’Aquila Seven’’. Nat Hazards. doi:10.1007/s11069-014-1062-2
- What are the real allegations for the indicted scientists and officials? (M. Stucchi)
This issue has been misinterpreted and overlooked by the press, papers etc. around the world. At the very beginning of the story the most common understanding was that the seven defendants were accused of not having predicted the earthquake which occurred one week (6 April 2009) after the meeting of 31 March 2009, or for not having released any alert.
Actually this interpretation was favoured by an interview of the most authoritative source, the Chief Prosecutor (the late Alfredo Rossini) who, on 3 June 2010, the very day when the preliminary investigations had been concluded and the indictment was delivered to the seven defendants, said at one of the national TV channels:
“It is not a matter of missing alert. The alert already came from the earthquake sequence. It is a matter of missing warning to leave homes.”
These words easily spread through the media and became the main reference for the public, as the indictment document was not available, yet. The document was known later: see text and translation in the Appendix. One of the accusations, that is
“having performed an approximate, generic and ineffective assessment of the risks connected with the seismic activity on-going in the L’Aquila territory since December 2008”
became the reason for a long, complex, rough and very partial scientific analysis of what seismic risk is and how it should be assessed, performed first by the prosecutor and then put together, and expanded, in the Motivation of the Sentence. On the other hand it has to be noted that, in the allegation, the prosecutor explicitly says that
“The contributing factors, even those who represent others criminal offense, fell all in the prediction possibility of the defendants, including the assessment of short-term predictability of an earthquake with the same characteristics of the one which occurred on 6 April at 3.32”
Contrary to this and what said by the late Chief Prosecutor, the Motivation of the Sentence repeats several times that the defendants are not accused for not having predicted the earthquake, “what is obviously impossible”….(!), but for not having correctly assessed the risks.
“… Of course we do not want to say that, on the basis of hazard maps and probabilistic studies could be foreseen the shock of 6.4.09 or that, on the basis of these studies, the defendants would have to issue warnings to the population of impending shock or evacuate the entire city.
The judgment of predictability/avoidance are not dealt with the earthquake as a natural phenomenon, but with the completion of the evaluation of seismic risk according to the canons of prediction and prevention based on indicators, which are known to the accused, which are the factors of the formula R = P x V x E”.
This different statement, however, did not bring any benefit to the defendants, who have been sentenced 6 years instead of the 4 years asked by the prosecutor.
Also due to the internal contradictions of the Motivation of the sentence, the misinterpretation of the accusation did not stop. Among the most recent ones, even Alexander (2014) states that ‘‘seven functionaries of the Italian National Department of Civil Protection (DPC) – sic! – were indicted for ‘‘giving out official information that culpably misled local residents by inducing them not to take precautions against an impending earthquake disaster.’’ (see Gabrielli and Di Bucci, 2014, for an answer to the article). Marzocchi et al. (2014) write: “The 6 April earthquake became infamous worldwide because seven experts, who attended a Grandi Rischi Commission meeting on 31 March, were convicted of failing to properly warn the public about the possibility of the mainshock and were sentenced to six years in jail”.
The main parts of the accusation document have been translated: http://eagris2014.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/allegation-initial-document.pdf
Alexander D.E., 2014. Communicating earthquake risk to the public: the trial of the ‘‘L’Aquila Seven’’. Nat Hazards. doi:10.1007/s11069-014-1062-2
Gabrielli F. and Di Bucci D., 2014. Comment on ‘‘Communicating earthquake risk to the public: the trial of the ‘L’Aquila Seven’’’ by David E. Alexander. Nat Hazards, doi: 10.1007/s11069-014-1322-1
Marzocchi W., Lombardi A.M. and Casarotti E., 2014. The Establishment of an Operational Earthquake Forecasting System in Italy. Seismological Research Letters, 85, 5, 962 – 969
- About the CGR and its duties (G. Cavallo and M. Stucchi)
What is the “National Commission for the forecast and preventions of Major Risks” (CGR) ?
After being established in 1982, the “National Commission for the forecast and preventions of Major Risks” (CGR) was defined by Art.9 of Law 225/92 as the organ of the Civil Protection in charge of advising and making proposals to DPC (not therefore a prescriptive or operative organ). Notwithstanding the many amendments which Law 225/92 underwent, Art.9 remained substantially unchanged to 2009. The organization, rules and procedures of the CGR were specified in an ad-hoc Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers (DPCM 1250, 2006). Art.1 stated that CGR had 21 members, divided into sectors covering five types of risks. The working rules were given in Art.3. Among other provisions, the quorum of the CGR meetings was set to 10 members. The Decree 1250/2006 was later abrogated and replaced by DPCM (7/10/2011), wherein a few rules were changed, others were clarified, and new ones were included.
It must be noticed that DPCM 1250/2006, which was in force at the time of the L’Aquila meeting, also envisaged, in Art.3, Paragraph 10, a more informal type of meeting, the so-called expert meeting, which could be called by the Head of the DPC. According to Art.3, Paragraph 2, only the President or the Vice President of the CGR could call a meeting of the CGR.
Usually the CGR meets in Rome, at the DPC Headquarters, to allow DPC officials to take part or to be informed.
Which are the duties of the CGR ?
After an introduction (Art.1), the basic law L225/92 lists the types of risky “events” (Art2) and defines the tasks or “activities” (Art.3) of the National Service of Civil Protection, which eventually became the DPC. In 2009 four “activities” were foreseen: (1) forecasting, (2) prevention, (3) rescue operations, (4) managing the aftermath of the emergency.
Duties of CGR is established in Art.9; it is in charge of giving advice and presenting proposals on all PC activities directed to forecasting and preventing risk. No operative or prescriptive tasks are mentioned. CGR “examines the data coming from the entities, listed in Art.6, which are supposed to monitor, evaluate, forecast and prevent risks”. This duty was later updated and clarified after the L’Aquila events.
In conclusion, and despite to what the Prosecutor and the Motivation say, CGR had no duties of evaluation, forecasting and prevention; even less of these duties had a meeting of experts.
- The L’Aquila meeting of 31 March 2009 (M. Stucchi and G. Cavallo)
What was the reason for calling an expert meeting in L’Aquila on the 31 March 2009?
In March 2009 the situation in L’Aquila had become quite difficult, because of many factors:
- the continuing earthquake sequence, culminating in an event of M=4.0 on 30 March;
- the spread of ad hoc rumors forecasting major events;
- the forecasts of a amateur technician, G. Giuliani, predicting varied earthquakes including a major earthquake on 29-30 March in Sulmona, 60 km away from L’Aquila, and
- a press release by the “Assessore” (Political responsible) to Civil Protection of the Regional Government (Regione Abruzzo), D. Stati, which, on May 30, officially stated that no major earthquake was impending.
After reading this press release, the Head of DPC, Bertolaso, called Stati saying that such statements “are never to be said, even under torture”. In order to “repair” the situation Bertolaso said that he would send the highest experts of seismic risk to L’Aquila the next day, to make the situation clear “through a mediatic event”. The telephone call was recorded because Bertolaso was under investigation for other reasons – without knowing it – and was later made available to public – Italian style – during the L’Aquila trial. Experts declared at the trial that they did not know about this call.
What kind of meeting was held in L’Aquila on the 31 March 2009 and were the seven defendants all members of the CGR?
The meeting was called by the Head of the Civil Protection Department, G. Bertolaso, with five faxes respectively addressed to
- Zamberletti (President of the CGR, 21 members; for personal reasons he could not attend the meeting)
- Barberi (Deputy President of CGR)
- Boschi (President of INGV)
- Calvi and C. Eva (experts of CGR, seismic risk section).
The text reads:
Voglia Codesta Presidenza e codesti esperti del settore Rischio sismico partecipare alla riunione convocata per il giorno 31 Marzo 2009 all’Aquila alle ore 18,30 presso la sede che verrà comunicata successivamente per un’attenta disamina degli aspetti scientifici e di protezione civile relativi alla sequenza sismica degli ultimi quattro mesi, verificatasi nei territori della Provincia de L’Aquila e culminata nella scossa di Magnitudo 4.0 del 30 marzo 2009 alle ore 15,38 locali.
Il Capo Dipartimento
Will you please, President and experts of the seismic risk sector, to kindly take part in a meeting called on 31 March 3009 at L’Aquila at 18.30 (venue to be specified later), for a careful analysis of the scientific and civil protection aspects of the seismic sequence of the last four months, that is taking place in the territories of the L’Aquila province and culminated in the M4.0 earhquake of 30 March 2009 at 15.38, local time.
The Head of the Department
As mentioned above, according to the law the DPC Head had no power to call a meeting of the CGR. This power belonged exclusively to the CGR President or Deputy President, while the DPC Head could only summon the experts.
According to the minutes, the meeting was attended at least by nineteen persons (at least, because nineteen are reported in the minutes, but it is known from the trial proceedings that other persons came in without registering; one of them participated in the trial as eyewitness). Four of the participants, later indicted (Barberi, Boschi, Calvi, Eva), were members of the CGR; the other three defendants (Selvaggi, director of INGV monitoring centre, invited by Boschi; Dolce, head of the seismic risk bureau of DPC and De Bernardinis, deputy head of DPC, who were sent by the Head of DPC as his representatives) were not CGR members, did not receive a fax, and were not included among the addressees.
So, we can conclude that at L’Aquila, on 31 March 2009, there was a meeting of four CGR experts (as foreseen by the law, Art.3, Paragraph 10), but not of the CGR, and that only four of the seven defendants were members of the CGR. By no means the indicted were “seven functionaries of the Italian National Department of Civil Protection (DPC)” as stated by Alexander (2014); only two of them, Dolce and De Bernardinis, were.
Equally easy to counter is the statement that the meeting was to all effects a CGR meeting. Besides the quorum issue (10 members, see below), the very fact that only five faxes were sent means that the Commission, consisting of 21 members, was not summoned.
Is that important?
Yes. The Defense lawyers were quick to raise objections, thus forcing the Judge to analyse the matter in depth, and devote the whole chapter 5.3 of the Motivation of the sentence to an attempt to answer to the question: “was it really a meeting of the CGR?”. The Judge, as well as the Prosecutor before him, was aware of the weakness of his point. To support his theory, and to get to the quorum of ten, the Judge found the solution of “nominating” six additional CGR members picked from the participants in the meeting, unbeknownst to them at that time: besides Selvaggi, Dolce and De Bernardinis, who were subsequently indicted, the “Assessore” (Political responsible) to Civil Protection of the Regional Government (Regione Abruzzo) Stati, the Major of L’Aquila, Cialente and Leone, head of office of the Civil Protection of the Regional Government (Regione Abruzzo) were also appointed as “CGR members”..
The point is important because part of the allegation proceeds from the (interpretation of) the duties of the CGR according to the Law:
“venendo così meno ai doveri di valutazione del rischio connessi alla loro qualità e alla loro funzione e tesi alla previsione e prevenzione e ai doveri di informazione chiara, corretta e completa”
“failing in such a way to respect the duties of risk assessment connected to their quality (!) and function, addressed to forecast and prevention and to the duties of clear, correct and complete information”
But it was not a CGR meeting and the CGR had no such duties.
The penalty was imposed on all defendants, irrespectively of the part they played at the meeting, because of the same assumption, that all defendants were members of the CGR. It was not imposed, nevertheless, to Stati, Cialente and Leone, although they had been appointed as members of the CGR, too.
Not for nothing the prosecutor says, during the trial, that if the 31.03.2009 meeting was not a CGR meeting then “we should close here the discussion and go home, because here we are just wasting time”.
As matter of fact, unfortunately the discussion was not closed there….
The first hearing of the Appeal trial
The first hearing of the Appeal trial was held in L’Aquila on Friday, 10 October. The judges are three: the president is Fabrizia Ida Francabandera. She announced the intention of proceeding very quickly, so that the trial will be concluded on 31 October 2014.
The president read a summary of the Motivation of the first trial Sentence, giving the impression that the court has gone through the 900 pages and plus in detail. She pointed out the main points, such as – for instance – the fact the previous judge has “appointed” six persons (Selvaggi, Dolce and De Bernardinis, now defendants; Stati, Cialente and Leone) as members of the Major Risks Commission, without right of voting, to get to the number of 10 attendees to the meeting, that is the required quorum. She also read a short summary of the Appeal texts of the lawyers, to be illustrated in detail later by them.
Next spoke the Prosecutor (Procuratore Generale, PG), who pointed out the main points of the accusation, starting from the statement that it was not a trial to Science, not a trial to a missing forecast but to missing risk evaluation. He also insisted on the “causal connection”, saying that the [presumed] communication of the “Grandi Rischi” determined an anomalous, careless behaviour of the victims. Further to the usual issues (Bertolaso, mediatic operation, highest experts, energy discharge, etc.) the PG mentioned only a few defendant by name and, among them, Selvaggi, saying that he actively participated in the discussion. Then he said that, according to his views, Barberi confirmed that it was an official meeting of CGR and that it was a public meeting, to which uninvited (“imbucati”) persons could attend – including the eyewitness De Pinto – who could transfer the information outside. He then wondered why the minutes were signed and delivered after the earthquake, because it was no longer useful then.
During his speech the PG defended Giuliani who, according to him, “had been treated as a charlatan but may be he had a long view” (see the reaction of a scientist of the L’Aquila University – in Italian – http://uninews24.it/abruzzo/5344-de-luca-univaq-sconcertante-dare-ancora-credito-a-giuliani.html; she and other colleagues had written a paper on this matter http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12665-013-2635-1#page-1). He repeated the mistake found in the Motivation according to which Selvaggi was co-author with Boschi of a 1995 paper on earthquake probabilities (by Boschi, Gasperini and Mulargia) and then repeated that scientists at the meeting were aware on the scope of it and had agreed on that.
The PG required the 6 years sentence to be confirmed for all defendants.
Then spoke the first lawyer of the victims’ relatives.
The next hearings will take place on 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31 October. The final sentence is expected on that day.
See also (in Italian)
http://www.ansa.it/abruzzo/notizie/2014/10/10/al-via-processo-appello-grandi-rischi_b60741a3-b552-4e3d-9b96-395ecc834248.html (interesting comments)
Note also that “Newyorker” http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/weekend-reading-observing-executions-italian-earthquakes-nico-muhly-beyonce has quoted a post by D. Wollman https://medium.com/matter/the-aftershocks-7966d0cdec66
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14 October 2014
- About communication, glass of wine and the expert meeting output: part 1 (M. Stucchi and G. Cavallo)
The main episodes of communication before the meeting
30 March: press release by Civil Protection of Regione Abruzzo (with reference to the frequent alerts given by unknown persons and by self-appointed earthquake investigator Giuliani)
Oggetto: Protezione Civile. Non previste altre scosse nell’aquilano. (ANSA) – Pescara, 30 MAR –
Nell’aquilano ”non sono previste altre scosse sismiche di alcuna intensità”. Lo rende noto la sala operativa unificata permanente della protezione civile, evidenziando che “tutte le informazioni diffuse di altro contenuto sono da ritenersi false e prive di ogni fondamento”
Subject: Civil Protection. No earthquakes forecast in the L’Aquila Region (ANSA) – Pescara, 30 March. – In the L’Aquila region no earthquakes of any size are forecasted. The information comes from the operation, unified and permanent room of the [local] Civil Protection, saying that all other information contrary to this one are to be taken as fake and without ground.
Later, the head of national DPC, Bertolaso got angry for this press release and called Stati, Regional Assessor, announcing the expert meeting for the next day. Stati said that she would cancel the press release and Bertolaso said his office would do that.
31 March: interview of Civil Protection Assessor of Regione Abruzzo, D. Stati.
Among other statements, Stati says that “there will be a meeting, Bertolaso will send two experts seismologists and his deputy, De Bernardinis…”
In the following she said “if there is someone able to forecast earthquakes I am waiting for him to give us true information, otherwise we are creating unjustified alarms…”
31 March: the TV interview to De Bernardinis.
This interview, containing references to the concepts of the sequence “as a normal phenomenon”, of favorable “energy discharge” through small earthquakes and the glass of wine “from Ofena”, a village not far from L’Aquila, has been considered by most persons (journalists, public opinion etc.) as the paradigmatic moment when the citizenship was “reassured”.
Actually, it was given by De Bernardinis to the interviewer, G. Colacito, responsible of InAbruzzo.com, before the expert meeting, on the arrival at the place. The interview was then broadcasted by TV Uno after the meeting, as if it represented the conclusions of it, without specification that it was recorded before. This interpretation, by the way, still remains in many comments, including some scientific papers.
In addition, during the hearings of the first trial, it was demonstrated (hearing of S. Bernacchi, press officer of the DPC), that the interviewer asked the permission to broadcast it as if it was recorded after the meeting. Such permission was denied and De Bernardinis stated that “it should be said that the interview represented the state-of-the-art at the moment to his knowledge”; but this did not happen. The judge discarded this important evidence. Also discarded was the fact that, at the end of the interview, De Bernardinis had defined as the most important points: “Never anxiety, always attention and readiness”. Incidentally, at this point it was the interviewer who proposed to drink a glass of wine, which De Bernardinis virtually accepted.
The importance of this interview is well known.
First of all, in the main body of the Motivation the judge quotes nine statements of the experts as causes of the death of the victims. While seven of them are taken out from the context of the minutes of the meeting (which were released only after the earthquake, to be discussed later), two of them make reference to this interview.
Next, the judge (and now the Appeal Prosecutor, too) state that “yes, the interview was given before, but it actually reflects the conclusion of the meeting”, which is obviously not true. Even more, the judge states that the interview represents the “Manifesto” of the meeting and that, should it had given after it, De Bernardinis would have said the same things (judgment of intentions?).
It has also to be noted that the judge avoids mentioning that this interview was given before the meeting, saying that it was given “aside” (Italian: a “margine”) the meeting.
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19 October 2014
The second and third hearing of the Appeal trial (and about earthquake forecast and risk)
The second and thirs hearings were held on Friday, 17 and Saturday 18, October. It started with the pleadings of the lawyers of the relatives of the victims, all asking for the confirmation of the Sentence. One of the lawyer said that the defendants “should have told us what was going to happen and they did not. They should not forecast the earthquake, but to assess the risk instead”. This is one of the main points upon which the sentence has been built, but this phrase is much more direct than what is said in the Motivation of the Sentence by the judge: “the analisys to be performed in the 31 March 2009 meeting was not the deterministic earthquake forecast but the evaluation of the earthquake risk”. This phrase is repeated, cut and paste, several times in the Motivation.
The term “risk” is often misused in the current Italian language, indicating sometimes a probability of a negative event (“c’è rischio che piova = there is a risk of rain”). But in the Motivation the judge carefully explain that he makes reference to the operational definition: hazard x vulnerability x exposition.
Now, the L’Aquila seismic risk was very well known long before the beginning of the earthquake sequence, because the area is subjected to the building code (zone 2) since 1915 (see for explanation http://zonesismiche.mi.ingv.it/documenti/Pericolo_aq_090416.pdf, in Italian). And when you are in an area subjected to the building code (in 2009 ruled by two laws, one of the State, one of the regional Government) this means that a strong earthquake may occur. There is no need for an expert meeting to assess it and, moreover, the earthquake risk cannot be assessed in detail in a n expert meeting. This is something that, according to the law, should have been performed well in advance by the Local and Regional Governments. As an example, the proceedings of a Workshop held at L’Aquila in 1989 (after a small earthquake which in 1985 caused light damage to the city) show a detailed map of the vulnerability of the buildings in the city centre. And the earthquake risk was high well before the beginning of the sequence and, according to the H x V x E definition it did not become higher because of the sequence.
So, coming back to what “they sould have told us”, there is only one thing “they” did not say: “when”. But this is earthquake forecast, in spite of all the efforts of prosecutors, judge and lawyers to avoid saying it, using the notion of risk instead. And it is to be remembered that, on 3 June 2010, the Head Prosecutor said that “It is not a matter of missing alert. The alert already came from the earthquake sequence. It is a matter of missing warning to leave homes.”
Next spoke the lawyers who defend the interest of the Italian State, who said that there was no “reassurance” “or don’t worry” by the defendants and that the bad communication was responsibility of the media, which caused a kind of “mediatic short circuit”. They asked forthe defendants to be sentenced not guilty.
Finally the defendant lawyers started their pleadings. First Stefàno, defendant of Eva, then Coppi, for Selvaggi. Their words were so effective that the counterparts may ask for an opportunity to respond.
An update by N. Nosengo, Italian science writer
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25 October 2014
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.
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.
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 (https://tegris2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/motivazioni-sentenza.pdf). 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 (https://tegris2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/motivazioni-sentenza.pdf). 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 (https://tegris2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/motivazioni-sentenza.pdf). 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 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.
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:
Comments to the Appeal sentence
Rémy 10 November 2014 at 17:30
Very good piece of news. The end of a nightmare for colleagues and friends. Enjoy this moment you deserve it.
I think I’m not mistaken if I say that entire seismological community waited for this outcome and cheered the news today.
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.
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.
- 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”
- 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]
- 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.
The motivations of the Appeal Sentence have been deposited
On Friday, February 6 the motivations of the Appeal Sentence of November 10, 2014 have been released and the deposited in L’Aquila. Only a small part of the document (12 pages, 165-176) has been made available to the public, so far. It contains the core of the motivations.
One can read that “The Court believes that the however huge discussion held in the frame of the first trial does not allow to make it convinced that the facts ascribed to six defendants are real”.
The meeting of March 31, 2009 could not be identified as a regular meeting of the “Major Risk Committee; it simply was a meeting for discussing scientific an civil protection problems, as it is in the power of the Head of the Civil Protection Department to call for. The goal of the meeting can only be derived from the letter sent to the invited scientists, not the one contained in the accusation. No blame can be thrown on to the scientists as far as the scientific evaluations performed in the meeting.
The Appeal Court does not believe that the intention of Bertolaso (Head of the Civil Protection Department) was to reassure the citizenship; his intention was to counter the effect of the statements by Giuliani and by the press release of Regione Abruzzo of March 30.
As for De Bernardinis, sentenced two years, who represented Bertolaso in the meeting, the Court believes that his words, released in the interview held before the meeting, may have had an impact on the behaviour of some of the victims. This can be assessed evn without making reference to the so called “theory of the social representations” (widely used by the first degree judge), whose scientific value could not be demonstrated.
Altogether, the motivations seem to destroy the core of the accusation and to accept much of the defence statements.
Return to Table of Contents
11 March 2015
The Motivation of the Appeal Sentence: a Summary (Part 1 – M. Stucchi)
Note. The Motivation of the Appeal Sentence is written in a rather technical language, which makes it very difficult to be understood in some details also for Italians, and to be summarised and translated in English (much more with respect to the First Trial Motivation Sentence). Apologize for the poor English. Bold is from the Motivation.
The full text of the Motivation has been made available on February 9, 2015. It consists of 388 pages (less than the half of the first degree sentence), to be found here
https://tegris2013.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/appello_compl.pdf (care, 180 MB).
• a summary of the first degree sentence (p. 1 – 61)
• a summary of the civil parts statements (62 – 68)
• a summary of the defendants statements (69 – 164)
• the decision core (165 – 176)
• the analysis of the 31 March 2009 meeting (176 – 215)
• how the experts communicated (215 – 222)
• how the news of the meeting were spread by the media (222 – 233) and the conclusion that the six defendants are not guilty, while one is not.
• the position of De Bernardinis (233 – 270)
• the analysis of which victims have been really affected by De Bernardinis’ interview (270 – 382)
• the assessment of De Bernardinis’ sentence (382 – 388).
As mentioned in the previous post, the main points for the acquittal of six defendants (the decision core) are:
1) the meeting of 31 March 2009 was not a meeting of the MRC – Major Risk Committee (contrary to prosecutor and first trial judge). Four defendants (Barberi, Boschi, Calvi, Eva) were members of the MRC; De Bernardinis took part in the meeting as deputy head of Civil Protection Department (CPD); Selvaggi was invited by Boschi and in the minutes he is referred as “accompanying person”; Dolce took part in the meeting as director of the Seismic Risk Department of CPD. There was no legal number of participants (ten); it was a meeting of “investigation” which the head of CPD can ask to the MRC. In the absence of any deliberation of the meeting, the contribution of the defendants has to be evaluated separately;
2) the goal of the meeting was assessed by the letter which called the meeting (“a careful analysis of the scientific and civil protection aspects of the earthquake sequence ongoing in the L’Aquila area since four – 4 – months”) and not what contained in the press release of Civil Protection, later amalgamated into the allegation by prosecutor and first trial judge). The participants – with the exception of De Bernardinis – had no knowledge of such press release; therefore they did not take over the charge of informing the population (as stated by the prosecutor). According to the law, only CPD is responsible for doing that;
3) the evaluation of seismic risk, in the course of the meeting, was performed according to the best possible science. The first trial judge is wrong when criticizing the method and not the content of such evaluation. In particular, the Court remembers that the first trial judge did not explicitly prosecute the defendants for failing forecasting the earthquake, for failing evacuating the city or releasing an alert, for reassuring the people. The Court observe that the defendants performed correctly, as in no way it was possible to assess that the earthquake risk was growing in the area;
4) finally (and most important), the defendants did not reassure people. The telephone call between Bertolaso, head of CPD, and Stati, responsible of the regional civil protection, explains that Bertolaso was worried about the announcements by Giuliani of impending earthquakes and the press release by the regional civil protection assessing that “no earthquakes of any size is expected“; the defendants were not aware of such a call. The contents of the meeting were not delivered to the citizenship through the minutes of the meeting itself, but only through an interview to Barberi and one to De Bernardinis, only one fragment of which still exists. The Appeal court does not find that such interviews contain reassuring words; they are coherent with what said in the meeting.
5) On the other hand, the Court finds that the De Bernardinis interview, although released BEFORE the meeting, reports wrong scientific statements (the reference to “energy discharge”) and violates the duty of precision and care which should inspire the risk management. Moreover De Bernardinis failed to stress, during such interview, that he was speaking for himself, as Deputy Head of the Civil Protection, and not as a speaker of the scientists meeting.
The analysis of the 31 March 2009 meeting deals with the above topics, although more in detail.
In particular, with respect to the “energy discharge” statement, the Court states that no defendants mentioned it in the way it was then supplied to the public as if it was coming from the scientists. Therefore, the statement of the first trial judge that this topic was the background of De Bernardinis interview has to be considered wrong. Moreover De Bernardinis, in the interview release after the meeting – although probably not broadcasted – did not repeat such statement.
Attention has been given to what said by Calvi that “damage can be expected to the most fragile structures“, because the first trial judge states that this was “macroscopically wrong” from the communication point of view, and had a reassuring effect on the citizens (without explaining – says the Court – how such statement could have reached them). This statement should be read in the context of the discussion, concerning the effects of the ongoing sequence.
At the end of the meeting the regional civil protection responsible Stati said “many thanks to your issues, which allow me (!) to reassure the citizen through the media we are going to meet soon“. This is the core of the assumptions of the first trial judge concerning the “reassuring goal” of the meeting. In the press meeting Stati did not mention the experts meeting and announced that emergency plans (including the decision of starting 24h emergency services) were ready. When listened as witness in the course of the first trial (2011), Stati made different statements; the first trial judge adopted them instead, because more favourable to his thesis. As for the L’Aquila mayor, Cialente, the next day he formally asked for the emergency to be declared. As a conclusion, the Court says that all defendants stressed the high risk of the area, that a strong earthquake could not be forecasted and that the earthquake sequence could not be assessed as a precursor.
Then the Court stresses how the first trial judge concentrates his accusation around “the failure of assessing the risk” which, according to the allegation, was performed in a “approximate, generic and ineffective way”. The courts finds that such concepts are not familiar with the law. The judge should verify the results, not the method used. This shows, according to the Court, that the judge is looking “ex post” (after the event) for a rule which could have been “broken” by the defendants, contrary to the ordinary legal procedures. According to this hypothesis, the first trial judge has devoted himself to the – unnecessary – check of the scientific procedures of the defendants. With this inspection the judge assigns to the experts duties which are of the Civil Protection and the MRC. The Court disagrees.
According to the Court, the core of the problem is, whether on 31 March 2009 “it was possible, and therefore due, to assess that the earthquake risk was increasing, in an area where it was already high”. (The court recalls that the first trial prosecutor, and the second trial prosecutor, states that the risk assessment had been performed wrongly; moreover, in a parallel trial (after the first one) for other victims [yes, there have been more trials on the same topic], the judge said that the defendants “failed to warn against the risk increase” (in this trial the evidence of the the causative connection between defendants actions and casualties was not assessed). At that stage, having clear that the quality of the scientific analysis was not a point of the allegation, the problem remains whether the earthquake sequence was to be considered a precursor or not.
The Court stresses that the first trial judge did not use own scientific consultants, but those of the parts of the trial, and he has chosen to adopt the papers by some of them. Then the Court summarizes the contribution of witnesses and consultants (Gasparini, Marzocchi, Stoppa, Mualchin, Kossobokov, Moretti), stressing that most of them have devoted their contribution to the question of the “missing alert”, which is out of the allegation, and among of the duties of the Civil Protection. The Court concludes that the earthquake sequence could not be considered as a sure precursor of a large earthquake.
Similar considerations are discussed with respect to the probability of large earthquakes. In particular, the Court opposes the statement (p. 349 of the first trial sentence) that “the magnitude increase was not a remote possibility“, supporting the idea that the risk was increasing, which does not belong to the allegation.
Finally, the Court discusses the charge that vulnerability and exposure had not been discussed in the meeting. It finds that a theoretical discussion of such themes was insignificant, and that the situation was very clear for the Civil Protection officers who attended to the meeting. Moreover, the Court finds that the reinforced concrete buildings have performed well (only 1% have collapsed, most of them with failures with respect to the building code, according to Decanini and Liberatore).
The last point of this part is devoted to the risk communication.
The allegation explicitly contains this point, with reference to law article which cannot apply to an expert meeting. The law does not attribute to the MRC and the expert the task of communicating the risk to the public; the Civil Protection has this task. The first trial judge believes that MRC deviated from his task, taking over the responsibility of communicating; this would follow from the content of the telephone call between Bertolaso and Stati. The Court believes that the expert had no communication commitment and they did not communicate; they did not know about Bertolaso’s intention and did not reassure anybody. The evaluations of the experts have been communicated in real time to the Civil Protection officers attending to the meeting who, later, communicated with the media. The meeting was not public (as the first trial judge states): the journalist Colacito, author of the famous interview to De Bernardinis before the meeting, stated that it was impossible to take part in the meeting. The same is confirmed by professors Moretti and Ferrini, of the local university, who were denied the permission to attend. Del Pinto arrived late and stood near the door, a clear sign that he was not entitled to be there. There was no press release and nobody could watch the minutes: that means, that what was said in the meeting was not transferred outside. As for the press conference (Barberi, De Bernardinis, Stati, Cialente), the audio of it is lacking with the exception of a fragment, no newspaper reports it, nor the witnesses. As for Barberi’s interview, the Court finds that the content was coherent with the discussions in the meeting and that it was not reassuring; no witness made reference to it.
Then the Court investigates how the output of the meeting was spread by the media later. It is a very interesting analysis which would deserve a full translation. Such analysis demonstrates the no reassuring message was broadcasted, that the focus was on De Bernardinis interview given before the meeting (and broadcasted as if it was the output of it), and that the citizens and the administrators were very worried. After a couple of days any reference to the meeting disappeared.
So, the Court concludes (p. 233) that the six defendants are to be acquitted because the “allegation does not stand”.
To be continued with the analysis of the position of De Bernardinis
A volume on the L’Aquila trial (in Italian)
Alessandro Amato, Andrea Cerase and Fabrizio Galadini are the editors of the volume “Terremoti, comunicazione, diritto; Riflessioni sul processo alla “Commissione Grandi Rischi”” (Earthquakes, communication, law, reflections on the “High risk committee” trial), which contains about 20 papers of varied expertise on the L’Aquila trial.
From the back cover we read (translated):
“Disasters often have very long incubation and not a single responsible. For these reasons it is not possible to grasp the complexity of the “L’Aquila seven” trial without putting aside the excess of simplification, prejudice and hasty search for the culprits. This book is addressed to anyone who cares about problems related to natural hazards and the knowledge needed to avoid that in a next future they can turn into disasters. The first degree trial ended with the conviction of the seven experts who participated in the meeting of the “Major Risks Committee”, but the appeal verdict overturned the in an acquittance of for six of on seventeen, pointing out a problem that affects not only the strength of evidences, but also the delicate relationship between science and law, between the expectations of citizens at risk and institutions called to manage it, between risk perception and action to mitigate reduce it, between media professionals and institutional public communicators. The possibility of different interpretations of rules and obligations of players involved in risk assessment, management and communication suggests relevant consequences at system level, introducing new potential threats to citizens’ safety, that won’t be late to emerge.
The following analysis highlight the impossibility of single disciplines to charge on themselves all complexity of the debated issues, emphasizing the need for an integrated and multidisciplinary approach. The contributions of seismologists, engineers, sociologists, lawyers, psychologists and science journalists would precisely delineate the very relevant issues emerging in the two trials, outlining a critical perspective toward the judgments and proactive about the future.”
You can find the cover, the index and a short summary of the papers here:
19 November 2015
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.
Return to Table of Contents
20 November 2015
Six of the “L’Aquila seven” are free!
20 November 2015 at 20:02
This is a very good news. I am very happy to see this outcome for all of you. It has been a very difficult period for you and your family but finally justice has prevailed. I will have a drink for you.
This unfortunate and disgraceful witch hunt, something we all thought was not possible to happen in 21st century, is finally over. I am happy beyond words. Today is a very important day for seismology and for science in general.