Gaetano Costa

Article

August 19, 2022

Gaetano Costa (Caltanissetta, 1 March 1916 - Palermo, 6 August 1980) was an Italian magistrate killed by the mafia.

Biography

Gaetano Costa was born in Caltanissetta, where he studied until obtaining his high school diploma, then graduating from the Faculty of Law in Palermo. As a boy he joined the Communist Party, then clandestine. After winning the competition in the judiciary he was enlisted as an officer in the aviation, obtaining two war crosses. On 8 September he reached the Val di Susa joining the partisans who worked there. At the beginning of the forties he was placed in service in the Magistracy, initially at the Court of Rome; subsequently, at his request, he was transferred to the Public Prosecutor's Office of Caltanissetta where he remained from 1944 to 1978. In that Prosecutor's Office he carried out most of his activity as a magistrate, first as Deputy Prosecutor and then as Prosecutor, always giving clear manifestations of high professional preparation, independence, and balance. Despite his apparently cold and detached character and the little inclination to social relations, he was always unanimously recognized a great humanity and attention especially towards the weakest subjects. Since the sixties, as evidenced by his deposition to the first Anti-Mafia Commission, he sensed that the mafia had undergone a radical mutation and that it had nestled in the vital ganglia of the public administration, controlling its contracts, hiring and management in general. In vain, at the time, he drew the attention of the highest authorities to the fact that an effective fight against the mafia required the preparation of legislative instruments that would allow them to investigate the assets of the alleged mafia and hit them. In January 1978 he was appointed Procurator of the Republic of Palermo but the reaction of the “Palazzo” was, to a large extent, negative, so much so that his placing in possession was delayed until July of that year. Taking office, aware of the resistance he would face, he made the following statement: In the short period of his management of the Palermo Public Prosecutor's Office he launched a series of very delicate investigations in which, albeit with the limited means available to him at the time, he attempted to penetrate the patrimonial sanctuaries of the Mafia.

The attack

Costa was murdered by the mafia on August 6, 1980. At 7:30 pm, walking alone and a stone's throw from his house, he was killed by six shots from a P38 pistol shot in the back by two killers who had escaped perhaps on motorcycles or perhaps on an A112 found later burned. Costa was leafing through books on a stall; he bled to death on a sidewalk in via Cavour in Palermo. Few people attended his funeral and, above all, a few magistrates. He wrote a substitute who was a man "whose only death could be bought". It should not be forgotten that, despite being the only magistrate in Palermo who, at that moment, had been assigned an armored car and an escort, he did not use it, believing that his protection would endanger others and that he was one of those who "had a duty to have courage". Because of that ruthless execution, the fact that he had personally signed arrest warrants against the boss Rosario Spatola and some of his men that other of his colleagues had refused to sign. The crime was ordered by the mafia clan headed by Salvatore Inzerillo. No one was convicted of his death, although the Catania Court of Assizes has ascertained the context by identifying him in the gray area between business, politics and organized crime. Many sectors, including the judiciary, have tried to make him forget also, perhaps, to hide the faults of those who left him alone and, as Sciascia said, pointed him to mafia revenge. His commitment was continued by Rocco Chinnici, al