This group of specialised judges including Giovanni Falcone, Paolo Borsellino, Giuseppe Di Lello and Leonardo Guarnotta, revolutionised the methodology of investigations into the mafia system.
During those years in Palermo, the foundation of the Antimafia Pool brought together a group of unique personalities who all sacrificed their lives for Italy, including the head of the rapid response unit Ninni Cassarà, who was later murdered by the mafia.
When rediscovering the story of that era, what stands out the most are the events that unfolded in Palermo’s bunker-courthouse which resulted in the first sentences of the “bosses” within the Sicilian mafia.
The successful trial wasn’t the result of a clear and united will of the people, but rather it was the product of those few extraordinary men in the Antimafia Pool, and of their virtue, integrity, honesty and courage.
The mafia was challenged and threatened for the first time by a group of men whose bravery, hard work and dedication formed a strong organisation that was almost unstoppable.
In another “first”, one of the real mafia bosses, Tommaso Buscetta decided to collaborate with the judges in the trial, unveiling a secret world that had never before been accessible to authorities.
Prosecutor Giuseppe Ayala recalled that when Buscetta entered the bunker-courthouse in Palermo, a sense of residual respect lingered in the room, although he was a turncoat.
Buscetta confirmed his testimony and was also cross-examined with Pippo Calò.
Other turncoats that participated in the trial were Salvatore Contorno, Vincenzo Sinagra and Stefano Calzetta.
Through all of these testimonies the judges were able to discover not only the structure and operation of Cosa Nostra, but also the instigators and perpetrators of many previously unsolved crimes.
The trial also revealed the activity of Cosa Nostra, defining the scope of the Sicilian criminal organisation.
The climate was tense as the trial unfolded, and the anticipated tension could also be felt by the public through the images televised during that period.
On the stand at the trial, and sensed by all, was an undoubtedly heinous and powerful organisation.
The testimonies also exposed the organisation’s endless ties to businessmen, the financial sector, and, above all, its close associations with national politicians, involving relationships based on reciprocal exchange for mutual benefit.
While sensing the danger of these revelations, the judges of Palermo still managed to isolate and strike the highest summit of this structure in Sicily for the first time, giving future appointment to those who were above it.
On November 11, 1987, after almost two years of proceedings against 475 defendants, the eight members of the Court of Assizes retreated to the Council Chamber for over 35 days.
On December 16, 1987, the presiding judge Alfonso Giordano delivered the final verdicts and the “Maxiprocesso” concluded: 346 convicted and 114 acquitted; 19 life sentences and a total of 2665 years of imprisonment shared between different prison sentences.
It was the toughest blow to Cosa Nostra that has ever occurred in the history of the Italian Republic.