ROME—Antonio Gozzini hit his 62-year-old wife, Cristina Maioli, over the head with a rolling pin while she was fast asleep. The blow was ferocious enough to knock her out cold.
He then slit her throat, sliced up her legs, and kept watch over her body for the next 24 hours before telling the cleaning lady when she arrived, “Cristina is dead, and I will die soon, too.”
But Gozzini, 80, didn’t die after the October 2019 attack. In fact, he has just been cleared of his wife’s murder after an appellate court ruled that he suffered a “raptus”—or a kind of seizure—fed by a “delirium of jealousy that destroyed his relationship with reality and triggered an irresistible homicidal urge.”
Gozzini was initially charged and convicted in a lower court, but his lawyers argued in the appellate court that his extreme jealousy of his wife’s job at a local high school should be considered an extenuating factor in his case. That he saw her leave the house in dresses and makeup led to an irrational view that she might be dressing up for another man.
The ruling has caused understandable anger in Italy where femicides—which were already among the highest in Europe with one woman being killed every three days by a husband or boyfriend—have increased during COVID lockdowns. Calls to domestic abuse hotlines, however, drastically decreased during Italy’s draconian lockdown, leaving many social workers concerned that women were too afraid to call for help while their partners were at home.
“It leaves us astonished,” said Antonella Veltri, head of the anti-violence against women DiRe Network, blaming the ruling on “sexist prejudices and a patriarchal vision of gender roles, so that the husband-master can ‘punish’ his wife in eyes of the Italian judicial system.”
Italian senator Valeria Valente issued a statement calling for the court to reconsider the ruling. “We believe that neither jealousy nor feelings of possession can in any way justify violence against a woman,” she said, pointing to an increase in domestic violence complaints since the pandemic began last March. Senator Mauro Laus also called for an inquiry into the decision. “It will be necessary to investigate the reasons for the ruling, but as a man I am horrified.”
Gozzini’s lawyer told reporters, “We are satisfied because the sentence reflects what emerged in the debate and that is that my client was mentally incapacitated.”