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Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake 

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Old 10-22-2012, 09:11 PM
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Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake

Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L'Aquila.

A regional court found them guilty of multiple manslaughter.

Prosecutors said the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake, while the defence maintained there was no way to predict major quakes.

The 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the city and killed 309 people.

Many smaller tremors had rattled the area in the months before the quake that destroyed much of the historic centre.

It took Judge Marco Billi slightly more than four hours to reach the verdict in the trial, which had begun in September 2011.

Lawyers have said that they will appeal against the sentence. As convictions are not definitive until after at least one level of appeal in Italy, it is unlikely any of the defendants will immediately face prison.
'Alarming' case

The seven - all members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks - were accused of having provided "inexact, incomplete and contradictory" information about the danger of the tremors felt ahead of 6 April 2009 quake, Italian media report.

In addition to their sentences, all have been barred from ever holding public office again, La Repubblica reports.

In the closing statement, the prosecution quoted one of its witnesses, whose father died in the earthquake.

It described how Guido Fioravanti had called his mother at about 11pm on the night of the earthquake - straight after the first tremor.

"I remember the fear in her voice. On other occasions they would have fled but that night, with my father, they repeated to themselves what the risk commission had said. And they stayed."
'Hasty sentence'

The judge also ordered the defendants to pay court costs and damages.

Reacting to the verdict against him, Bernardo De Bernardinis said: "I believe myself to be innocent before God and men."

"My life from tomorrow will change," the former vice-president of the Civil Protection Agency's technical department said, according to La Repubblica.

"But, if I am judged by all stages of the judicial process to be guilty, I will accept my responsibility."

Another, Enzo Boschi, described himself as "dejected" and "desperate" after the verdict was read.

"I thought I would have been acquitted. I still don't understand what I was convicted of."

One of the lawyers for the defence, Marcello Petrelli, described the sentences as "hasty" and "incomprehensible".
'Inherently unpredictable'

The case has alarmed many in the scientific community, who feel science itself has been put on trial.

Some scientists have warned that the case might set a damaging precedent, deterring experts from sharing their knowledge with the public for fear of being targeted in lawsuits, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome reports.

Among those convicted were some of Italy's most prominent and internationally respected seismologists and geological experts.

Earlier, more than 5,000 scientists signed an open letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in support of the group in the dock.

After the verdict was announced, David Rothery, of the UK's Open University, said earthquakes were "inherently unpredictable".

"The best estimate at the time was that the low-level seismicity was not likely to herald a bigger quake, but there are no certainties in this game," he said.

Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics at the UK's Royal Berkshire Hospital said that the sentence was surprising and could set a worrying precedent.

"If the scientific community is to be penalised for making predictions that turn out to be incorrect, or for not accurately predicting an event that subsequently occurs, then scientific endeavour will be restricted to certainties only and the benefits that are associated with findings from medicine to physics will be stalled."

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Old 10-22-2012, 09:22 PM
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Re: Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake

I cannot believe this shit! The judge is a fucking idiot!

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Old 10-22-2012, 09:23 PM
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Re: Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake

That's crazy. Imagine if we sent weather men to prison because they said it would be sunny and it rained.

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Old 10-23-2012, 02:08 AM
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Re: Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake

The point of the judge is not that they failed to predict the earthquake, but that one week before the major shock they issued a statement very reassuring. They didn't just say "well, we have no clue what will happen" (which was the truth): they stated that the risk of a major earthquake was low.
It would have been far better to NOT release any statement at all, instead.
Basically, many people who would have left their homes after the first tremor (as they were used to do, in that area) that night stuck at home, reassured by what the risk commission had said (loads of witnesses confirmed this).
That is the heart of the case, the whole inquiry started from the statement of Guido Fioravanti (who's mentioned in the article) who's lost his father because of the statement of the risk commission. And according to the judge (unique judge, not sided by a court), all this was worthy 6 years in prison, plus life disqualification from public offices (which means that not only they won't hold public offices anymore, but that they've lost their rights to vote, to be voted, to work in any public company, office etc AND they'll loose even any university qualification and any possibility to get new ones.
If all the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks was able to do was to issue a statement in which they gave an overly reassuring picture of the risk, one has to wonder what is the purpose of the existence of such commission, to say the very least.
Of course this sentence sets a very dangerous precedent, many scientists will feel discouraged from offering their advices on on natural hazards, or even stop working in seismology and seismic risk assessments, as consequence: and not only in Italy.
Now Italy should focus MUCH more in prosecuting all those who knew since decades that most of the buildings in the area would have collapsed in case of even just moderate shocks, and didn't nothing to put those buildings in safe condition. It would have been MUCH less expensive than one may expect: a series of works like, for example, lightening the floor (in those building this could have been done by a factor of 2/3rds), which by itself drastically reduces the risk of collapse, and beams tying the buildings each the others, which would have increased the shocks strenght dissipation abilities of entire towns: a small town in which these works have been made, is still there, not even a glass has broken. But corruption lead the politicians to focus on useless roads, roads junctions, bridges (for decades they're planning to build a €6.1 billion bridge in an area where in 1908 between 90.000 and 120.000 people lost their lives for an earthquake):

See the epicentre above? Yes, they want to build it exactly there.
So, if these seven dudes actually deserved to be sentenced to six years, then in Italy there are some hundreds of thousands deserving LIFE prison for what they did and for what they didn't.

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Old 10-23-2012, 11:15 AM
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Re: Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake

I saw this in the newspaper and it seemed like a story from Onion News! Very strange and quite unreasonable. Certainly very dangerous for the scientific world.

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Old 10-23-2012, 12:54 PM
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Re: Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake

what the fuck...

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Old 10-23-2012, 01:08 PM
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Re: Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake

They imprison scientists for incorrect predictions but it's okay for psychics to do so.

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Old 10-23-2012, 11:44 PM
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Re: Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake


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Old 10-24-2012, 03:15 AM
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Re: Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake

After seeing about the whole Amanda Knox case and now this the Italian system seems extremely fucked up.

I was watching interviews with relatives of the earthquake victims and they were all quite happy with the outcome, they seem to think the Scientists were just lazy.

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Old 10-24-2012, 11:54 AM
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Re: Scientists Get Manslaughter for Failure to Predict L'Aquila Earthquake

Either Medieval times have returned or its Italian justice.

I'm going with Italian justice.

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