Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic by Alexander Stille

Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic by Alexander Stille

Author:Alexander Stille
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781446418963
Publisher: Vintage Digital
Published: 2017-07-18T04:00:00+00:00

The first sign that life in the investigative office of Palermo was going to change became evident almost immediately, even before its new chief, Antonino Meli, took office. In late January and early February, while Caponetto was still nominally in charge, all the investigating magistrates received two stern memoranda generated by Marcantonio Motisi, the deputy chief of the office. Making clear that he was acting at Meli’s behest, Motisi complained that many prosecutors were not handling enough cases, and referred cryptically to a possible “reign of terror” if magistrates failed to meet their statistical goals. This raised the specter that the office was returning to the bureaucratic management of the past, in which prosecutors were judged primarily by the quantity and not the quality of their cases. Falcone’s detractors had tried to use statistics against him when he began dedicating so much time to the Spatola case in 1980, but he had received support from his bosses, first Rocco Chinnici and then Caponetto. Now the bureaucrats were back in power and seemingly eager to take their revenge.14

On March 9, 1988, police across Sicily issued some 160 arrest warrants based on the testimony of Antonino Calderone. It was the swan song of the Caponetto era and the last major operation generated by the anti-mafia pool he had created in 1983.

Five days later, Caponetto bid farewell to his colleagues at a ceremony to welcome his successor, Meli, to Palermo. During the ceremony, Caponetto noticed tears running down Giovanni Falcone’s cheeks. It was the first time Caponetto had ever seen Falcone, normally a model of self-control, express so much emotion.15

The senior judges of the Palace of Justice “wanted to say goodbye to Caponetto at the same moment as we welcomed Meli in order to create a sense of continuity and harmony,” as Antonio Palmieri, the president of the tribunal, would later testify. “I made a conciliatory speech, urging everyone to put the past behind them and to move forward together. Caponetto responded in the same spirit … the only voice out of tune was Meli … who, when he spoke, could not help sounding a polemical note … recalling the events that preceded his nomination.”16

Antonino Meli, a proud and stubborn man, thin-skinned, with a prickly character, was still smoldering over some of the things that had been said during the debate over his nomination. He found it unforgivable that even many of his own supporters had said that “seniority” was the only reason to prefer him to Giovanni Falcone, while others had pronounced him unfit for the job of chief prosecutor. “As if I had spent forty years just warming a seat!” he said. While it was true he had never done investigative work, he had been a trial judge in mafia cases and had even sentenced Michele Greco, “the Pope,” to life in prison for the assassination of chief prosecutor Rocco Chinnici.

That Meli arrived in Palermo in an angry, resentful mood was not entirely accidental. Someone threw gasoline on the fire by sending him nasty anonymous letters that succeeded in making his blood boil.


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