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Government The Courts Science

Seismologist Manslaughter Trial Begins Next Week 185

El Puerco Loco writes with a followup to a story we discussed in May about the manslaughter charges facing six seismologists and one government official in Italy after an earthquake there killed 309 people and destroyed 20,000 buildings. The case is going to trial next week, and an article at Nature provides an update on how things stand: "The indictments have drawn global condemnation. The American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), both in Washington DC, issued statements in support of the Italian defendants. ... The view from L'Aquila, however, is quite different. Prosecutors and the families of victims alike say that the trial has nothing to do with the ability to predict earthquakes, and everything to do with the failure of government-appointed scientists serving on an advisory panel to adequately evaluate, and then communicate, the potential risk to the local population. ... [The charges allege that the defendants] provided 'incomplete, imprecise, and contradictory information' to a public that had been unnerved by months of persistent, low-level tremors. [Prosecutor Fabio Picuti] says that the commission was more interested in pacifying the local population than in giving clear advice about earthquake preparedness. 'I'm not crazy,' Picuti says. 'I know they can't predict earthquakes. The basis of the charges is not that they didn't predict the earthquake. As functionaries of the state, they had certain duties imposed by law: to evaluate and characterize the risks that were present in L'Aquila.'"
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Seismologist Manslaughter Trial Begins Next Week

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