Progetto InnocentI


The Italian Constitution expressly contemplates the possibili- ty of a wrongful conviction, by stating that the law shall determine the conditions and forms regulating damages in case of judicial error. Therefore, it should come as no sur- prise that many provisions of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) deal with the topic. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the post-conviction remedies in the Italian legal system by considering the current provisions of the CCP, on the one hand, and by exploring their practi- cal implementation, on the other.

In a recent television appearance, Italy’s Ministry of Justice stated that ‘innocent people don’t end up in jail’,1 signifying that national authorities are not always willing to admit the flaws of their criminal justice system.

With all due respect to Italy’s Ministry of Justice, how- ever, it is fair to state that although the Italian criminal justice system has undergone a deep renovation pro- cess,2 it is still far from being fully effective, especially with regard to wrongful convictions.3 In fact, between 1991 and 2019, Italy had to face at least 191 cases of wrongful conviction,4 a number that falls short of being representative of the real proportion of wrongful convic- tions. Indeed, a reversal of a previous final judgment (this being, strictu sensu, a wrongful conviction) can occur only in exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, the Ministry of Justice does not provide official data concerning wrongful convictions.

In this article, we provide an overview of the post-con- viction remedies in the Italian legal system, by consider- ing the current provisions of the Italia  Code of Crim- inal Procedure (from now on, CCP), on the one hand, and by exploring their practical implementation, on the other.

We start by examining the Italian Constitution, which specifically considers the occurrence of a deviation between historical truth and judicially ascertained truth5 (Art. 24, para. 4, of the Constitution). We then analyse the main remedy set forth by the criminal procedure rules to overcome a final judgment – i.e. the revision6 – and the compensatory measures that follow the acquittal of the defendant after the revision trial.7 Lastly, we take a closer look at the remedies set forth by the CCP for ‘procedural’ injustices that may have occurred during the trial, as indirect means to protect the wrongfully convicted.

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