CHICAGO (CBS)– An earthquake specialist at Northern Illinois said the verdict is strange. And scientists worldwide have decried the trial as ridiculous. This comes after an Italian court convicted seven scientists and experts of failing to adequately warn citizens before an earthquake struck central Italy in 2009, killing more than 300 people.

The court in L’Aquila Monday evening handed down six-year-prison sentences to the defendants, members of a national `’Great Risks Commission.”

In Italy, convictions aren’t definitive until after an appeals trial, so it is unlikely any of the defendants would face jail immediately.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

Northern Illinois University Seismologist Phil Carpenter said this verdict will cause seismologists to become much more careful about what they say in public.

Carpenter said that such a verdict could make earthquake specialists extremely reluctant to discuss future earthquake possibilities. He says seismologists can predict within decades whether an earthquake might strike a particular area. But he says predictions at any shorter range are impossible.

Carpenter was one of dozens of scientists who signed a petition urging the Italian Government to drop prosecuting the scientists for failure to do something that can’t be done.

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