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01-29-2012, 12:16 AM #1
Indian woman dies in US jail after 15-day hunger strike
An Indian-origin woman, who was held at a Chicago jail for allegedly failing to show up for jury duty, has died in custody after a 15-day hunger strike.
The 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 he 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."...being a human...