1997 Nov 29 - Dec 16 : NewSfile #10
All six cleared in Senna trial
1997 December 16
Judge Antonio Costanzo today cleared all six defendants of manslaughter charges arising from the death of Ayrton Senna. The defendants' legal teams were delighted, smiling and punching the air in celebration.
This announcement indicates the judge had ignored the recommendations made by the state prosecutor, Maurizio Passarini, who earlier last month had asked for one year suspended sentences to be awarded to both Patrick Head and Adrian Newey.
The reason for the judge's decision will be published in 90 days.
None of the defendants were present in the courtroom today, Italian law does not require them to attend the hearing.
Peter Goodman, a lawyer for the Williams team, said:
"We had a good hearing, all the facts came out and I'm sure the right verdict was reached."
Speaking to reporters, Roland Bruynseraede's lawyer, Roberto Causo, said:
"By this verdict the judge has recognised that Formula One is an extremely dangerous sport."
Giovanni Carcaterra, representative for the Senna family, said:
"The Senna family only wanted to discover what actually happened, they were not interested in sentences."
Passarini said that he looked forward to reading the judge's report saying:
"I need to see whether the judge ruled that the incident was due to the breaking of Senna's steering column although there was no criminal responsibility, or if he felt that the column did not break. In that case I would be even more disappointed."
The state prosecutor could launch an appeal against Costanzo's decision although this action is thought to be unlikely.
A verdict of guilty would have started a backlash from those involved in the F1 world. Threats of some teams boycotting F1 racing in Italy were made prior to the commencement of the trial.
The FIA issued a statement saying:
"The FIA have noted today's decision of the Imola court, but will not comment until it has examined the full text of the decision and studied its implications."
Williams GP is pleased ...
"Williams Grand Prix Engineering is pleased to confirm that Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Adrian Newey have been acquitted of all charges which were the subject of the Imola trial.
"Our legal advisors inform us that the prosecution has an automatic right of appeal. Clearly we would hope that this matter will not be pursued any further."
Ferrari team manager, Jean Todt said:
"I haven't commented during the trial because I felt I should wait until the verdict, it has been rather laborious and lengthy, and is therefore a judgment of conscience which has to be accepted and also respected."
"It is not easy to give an opinion on a motor race when you know of the dangers and risks involved.
"My comments are positive because the fact is there has been a very careful examination of all the events, and because of the outcome of the trial."
Damon Hill believes the judge's decision will help Formula One's image after the recent controversies.
"I know this trial has been hanging over Williams and this vindication expresses a feeling about their utter integrity, both of the team and the standard of its engineering. I never had any doubts about them."
Ken Tyrell also expressed his pleasure over today's decision saying:
"I, like other team bosses am delighted that they brought in the correct verdict. The idea that Williams, the most successful team with probably the best engineered car in Formula One, would have made a mistake was unthinkable.
"I would have been apprehensive racing in Italy if this decision had found them guilty of manslaughter. I realise that in Italy someone has to be held responsible in the event of someone's death, but it is a quirk of the law and the authorities need to look at that."