A judge in L’Aquila, Italy convicted seven earthquake experts of manslaughter this week for having made a perfunctory analysis of an earthquake threat and falsely reassuring the public in advance of an earthquake which occurred in 2009.
On March 31, 2009, the seven experts convened for a meeting of Italy’s National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks held in L’Aquila. The meeting was called for the purposes of investigating a rash of small- to medium-sized tremors that had occurred in the region over the preceding 3 months. The subsequent information disseminated by the experts, according to the prosecution, led to 30 of the earthquake’s 309 victims staying inside on the night of the earthquake, which rocked the town only 6 days after the Commission’s meeting. The prosecution contended that this act of staying inside, as opposed to the normal protocol of seeking safety outdoors, caused the deaths of the 30 individuals.
The deputy of the National Commission had stated prior to the experts’ meeting that there was “no danger” posed by the tremors, and that the tremors were actually a positive occurrence in discharging energy. In response to this statement, the lawyer of another of the defendants sought to separate the deputy’s reassurance from the rest of the experts. Another defense attorney argued that earthquake prediction is impossible, and reasoned that his client provided no such reassurances.
Although the trial has extended for over a year, the legal process has not yet run its course. Defense counsel has 45 days to issue an appeal, and the defense attorneys have stated that they plan on doing so.