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Aftershocks in the Courtroom

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Science  12 Oct 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6104, pp. 184-188
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6104.184

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Four scientists, two engineers, and a government official participated in a meeting of an expert panel of Italy's Civil Protection Department on 31 March 2009 in the central Italian town of L'Aquila to assess a series of tremors that had shaken the town over the previous 3 months. After the group adjourned, two members gave a press conference, accompanied by local officials. Prosecutors in a controversial manslaughter trial say they downplayed the risk to L'Aquila's inhabitants, and as a result, some people who would otherwise have fled their homes during subsequent tremors stayed inside—and were killed on 6 April 2009. The trial has drawn international attention, outrage, and protests. Yet as the trial has unfolded, a more complex picture has emerged.

  • * Edwin Cartlidge is a science writer in Rome.