US: Indian-origin woman dies after hunger strike

Last Updated: Saturday, January 28, 2012 - 14:48

Chicago: An Indian-origin woman, who was
being held at a Chicago jail for allegedly failing to show up
for jury duty, has died in custody after a 15-day hunger
strike.

52-year-old Lyvita Gomes, a former airline trainer for
Delta Airlines, died in Lake County jail on January 3,
according to the Chicago Tribune.

Funeral arrangements for Gomes, which have now been
fixed, were earlier delayed until her relatives arrived from
the United Kingdom this weekend, Alfredo Miranda, owner of
Miranda Funeral Services, was quoted as saying.

Gomes, a native of Goa, was held after she ignored a jury
summons last summer.

As a non-citizen, she was not even eligible to serve on a
jury, but ignoring the summons started a chain of events that
brought her to the Lake County Jail in December.

She was charged with resisting arrest in October after a
deputy showed up at her door as ordered by a judge so that she
could explain her absence.

Federal immigration officials said Gomes got a US visa in
2004, and her friends said she moved to Atlanta to work at
Delta headquarters.

But there, one former co-worker said, she began to
show signs of mental instability.

Gomes, who lived in a Vernon Hills Hotel for the last two
years, did not show up for two more court hearings, and
once again a judge ordered her arrest.

On December 14, Vernon Hills police brought her to the
County Jail.

After the medical staff determined on December 29 that
Gomes` life was in danger, she was transferred to Waukegan`s
Vista Medical Center East, where she died five days later.

Representatives of Lake County United, a coalition of
religious institutions that works on social justice issues,
are questioning Gomes` treatment.

In consultation with Gomes` brother Oydsteven Gomes, they
have sought information about everything from her medical care
to the rationale behind her jury duty arrest, the paper said.

Gomes grew up in a suburb of Mumbai, and her brother
described her as optimistic, helpful and high-achieving.
She studied biochemistry and education in college, wrote a
math textbook and took a job as a Pan Am flight attendant in
1986.

Oydsteven Gomes, who lives in India, said in an
email: "I do not know if this is .. a failure of the prison
system or a careless culture and attitude towards individuals
whatever their circumstance. I do not wish (the inquiry) to be
a matter of reprisals but more a matter of learning the truth
so that attitudes can change."

PTI



First Published: Saturday, January 28, 2012 - 14:48

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