Monday, October 22, 2012

Italian scientists sentenced to jail for being “too reassuring” before deadly earthquake

| »
Bernardo de Bernardinis in court
Bernardo de Bernardinis in court

Science on trial, conviction edition: After being accused of providing false reassurance about the risks of a deadly earthquake right before a large one struck L’Aquila, Italy and resulted in heavy casualties, the scientists responsible have now had their day in court – and lost:

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.

This is asinine. As tragic as the disaster was, the idea that scientists should be punished – much less imprisoned – for failing to describe the exact date, location and size of the next earthquake is complete lunacy, and that it’s actually come to pass should be singularly enough to destroy anyone’s trust in the Italian judicial system. And even worse is the fact that not only didn’t the scientists actually do anything wrong, they never even made the “falsely reassuring statement” in the first place, as it was instead pronounced by former VP of the Civil Protection Agency, Bernardo de Bernardinis. In it, he actually misrepresented the scientists’ opinions, as they had actually told him that risks were low, but still very much present, contrary to his subsequent declaration that everyone was perfectly safe.

If anyone ought to be punished, it should be de Bernardinis and him alone, as he’s the official who put words in the experts’ mouths in order to cover his own ass. As it stands, six perfectly capable and innocent individuals are being thrown behind bars not only for a crime they never committed, but for failing to do something that’s absolutely impossible with our current equipment and know-how. It’s a sickening outrage.

(via @BadAstronomer)