The Italian Almanac



Jealousy is not a reason for giving a murderer a longer jail term, Italy`s supreme court says. Turning down a prosecutor`s appeal against a man who got 14 years for killing his wife after a string of jealous threats, the Cassation Court said jealousy is not one of the motives that should lead a judge to hand down a longer term. It stressed that Same U, an immigrant who killed his wife with a kitchen knife in 2006, was sentenced to a third the usual term because he opted for a fast-track trial. In his appeal, the prosecutor argued that the man should get a longer sentence because he had repeatedly threatened to kill his wife ``if he as much as saw her with other men`` and considered her ``his property``.

Cassation sentence drew a hail of criticism by politicians of all stripes and women`s groups who saw it as the kind of lenient ruling that might come out of an Islamic tribal court or a return to the days when crimes of passion were excused. ``A stunning sentence`` was the bipartisan political reaction, which branded it ``an insult to women`s rights``. A Euro-MP in Silvio Berlusconi`s People of Freedom Party, Roberta Angelilli, said: ``This is all the more unacceptable because violence against women, both in Italy and Europe, is the leading cause of death among 16-44-year-old females, reaping more victims than cancer or car crashes``.

But the high court stressed that there had been no change in jurisprudence. It explained that jealousy, since it was now so widely accepted ``in the collective conscience,`` was not one of the aggravating factors to be considered in weighing the length of a term. In Italy, so-called `trivial motives` often lead to longer terms because, the court explained, they ``have no concrete link to the crime and thus reveal the danger to society posed by the criminal``.

Jealousy, even the ``morbid`` version in question, was not among these factors, it said, rebutting claims that its stance on such crimes had changed. ``The supreme court has constantly held reprehensible, from an ethical and social standpoint, a homicide that is motivated by jealousy``.