In October of 2012, six Italian scientists and a government official were convicted of manslaughter for failing to give warning for the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009 that killed over 300 people. The verdict was terribly misguided and was overturned in November of last year.
The judge justified his decision by saying they failed in characterizing the science and informing this public. This is probably true to a degree, but we must make allowances for scientists and decision makers dealing with potential natural and public disasters with uncertain data. It’s a complicated process and mistakes get made. The argument about reinstating the charges continued. Until now.
Yesterday, Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome formally acquitted all the charges against the scientists. That’s the end. It did not make the victims families happy as they are looking for someone to blame.
Bernardo De Bernardinis, the deputy head of Italy’s civil protection department at the time, did NOT get his conviction overturned. He mistakenly over assured the public when the scientists information was effectively “neutral” about potential danger. The citizens were not given the best information. He received a reduced jail term of two years. There are other allegations that attempts were made to quell the media about the earthquake danger. Let’s hope some valuable lessons were learned.