Rome

Court says man died in police custody from malnutrition

Sentence justification for Cucchi manslaughter released

Court says man died in police custody from malnutrition

(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, September 3 - Court documents released on Tuesday explaining the conviction of five doctors and a hospital staff member for the death of a 31-year old man in police custody in 2009 said that he died of from malnutrition. Rome judges wrote in a justification for the June manslaughter convictions of the six that Stefano Cucchi, a surveyor's clerk, was killed by untreated "inanition syndrome" or malnutrition. Cucchi died while in police custody in Rome's Pertini prison hospital on October 22, 2009, one week after being arrested on a drug charge. Hospital director Aldo Fierro was sentenced to two years, physicians Stefania Cordi, Flaminia Bruno, Luigi De Marchis and Silvia Di Carlo one year and four months, and staff member Rosita Caponetti eight months. The guilty are on parole rather than serving prison time. The Rome judges wrote that they agreed with assessments made by forensic experts - that Cucchi's condition was not properly treated by hospital staff and that his death was caused by a "severe shortage of food and liquids". "There is only one explanation - the most glaring and singular element in the case is the striking weight loss that Stefano Cucchi encountered during his hospitalization," the document said. Treatment by the doctors and staff was marked by "neglect and carelessness," the court said. Though the five medical staff and the hospital employee were convicted, three police guards and three nurses who were also on trial were acquitted in June sparking anger and outrage from Cucchi's friends and family who screamed "killers" as the sentence was read out in court. "My brother is dead from injustice. The doctors have to examine their consciences, my brother would not have died without that beating," Cucchi's sister Illaria said after the sentencing. Family members met with the supreme Cassation Court's Attorney General in July to ask for the court to re-examine the magistrate's acquittal ruling. "We believe that the independence and autonomy of the judiciary are sacred values to our Constitution, but should never be used as a filter for abuse and random truths. Our legal proceedings are watched by all. Everyone must be equal before the law. Everyone should be called on to assume their responsibilities. Even magistrates," Illaria said. Prosecutors said at the June hearing that medical staff were indifferent to the young man, a drug addict with medical problems who had been described as grumpy and rude. Cucchi's lack of cooperation, however, was not sufficient reason for the medical staff to deny "a correct diagnosis and treatment of the serious case in a timely manner," the court document said. An experts' report also noted that shoddy records were kept at the Pertini prison clinic where Cucchi died, with few notes on the victim's weight, body temperature, or heart rate while he was a patient. An autopsy shortly after Cucchi's death found he was severely dehydrated and also had two broken vertebrae and internal organ damage.

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