Daniela Poggiali was acquitted on July 7, 2017 by an appeals court in Bologna, Italy of murdering an elderly woman in 2014. Sentenced to life in prison after her conviction in March 2016, Poggiali told reporters after her release from prison, “They painted me for what I am not, and now I’m taking my life back.”
In the fall of 2014 Poggiali was 42 and working as a nurse at the Umberto I hospital in Lugo, Italy. (Lugo is about 230 miles north of Rome.) She was arrested on October 9, 2014 and charged with murder in the death of a 78-year-old patient, Rosa Calderoni, on April 8, 2014.
She was charged based on the prosecution’s belief she injected Calderoni with a lethal dose of potassium chloride.
During her trial in Ravenna the prosecution presented no direct evidence that Poggiali injected Calderoni with potassium chloride. The prosecution argued she could have committed the crime because she was on duty and had access to Calderoni around the time she died. The prosecution’s circumstantial case was significantly buttressed by the “bad character” evidence of unsubstantiated allegations Poggiali might have been responsible for the theft of medicine from the hospital department where she worked, and that she might have also been responsible for the deaths of other elderly hospital patients — including a 95-year-old man who died a month before Calderoni. The prosecution also relied on the “bad character” evidence of a photograph of Poggliali grimacing next to a different elderly patient who had recently died.
After her conviction by the jury, Poggiali was sentenced on March 11, 2016 to life in prison.
Calderoni’s two children were awarded victim compensation of 150,000 euros (US$167,752).*
Poggiali appealed. Her lawyers argued the prosecution presented no evidence Poggiali was the cause of Calderoni’s death, and that she may not have even have died from potassium chloride. They also argued the prosecution’s suggestions Poggiali stole drugs and killed other elderly patients who happened to die in the hospital was pure inflammatory speculation, and that the photo of her with a deceased patient was unflattering, but it wasn’t evidence she murdered Calderoni who wasn’t even in the photo.
In 2016 the Court of Appeals in Bologna ordered a complete reevaluation of the pathology evidence related to Calderoni’s death. The resulting 70-page forensic pathology report negated the medical evidence the trial court relied on to convict Poggiali. The report determined the prosecution’s evidence didn’t establish Calderoni had “lethal levels of potassium” in her system, and furthermore, it did “not find similar applications in the literature” of the innovative potassium calculation method used by the prosecution’s expert to support she died from potassium poisoning.
Without any forensic evidence to support Poggiali’s conviction, or even that Calderoni was murdered, the prosecution’s case rested on the pure speculation she was a thief and a killer of other elderly people, and that it was in bad taste for her to be in a photograph with a deceased man.
On July 7, 2017 the appeals court publicly read its ruling. About 2-1/2 hours after the reading of the ruling began, the court’s decision was announced that Poggiali was acquitted because “the fact does not exist” that she murdered Calderoni (Or that Calderoni’s death was the result of a crime, and not due to natural causes.). The court ordered Poggiali’s immediate freedom from custody.
Poggiali’s fiance at the time of her arrest burst into tears in the courtroom near the end of the court’s ruling absolving her of wrongdoing.
Poggiali’s sisters Barbara and Claudia Poggiali told reporters outside the courthouse, “We are pleased with this result that has finally made justice to our sister. What they have taken away can not be returned to her. We’ve always been Proud of Daniela.
A video of Daniela Poggiali being released from prison can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/ydyuosr4.
Endnote: *150,000 euros was US$167,752 at the exchange rate of 1.118349 on March 11, 2016. (www.x-rates.com/historical/?from=USD&amount=1&date=2016-03-11)