EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


June 27, 2011

Man dead five years won't be charged in skipping jury duty

GEORGETOWN — An unfortunate set of circumstances is being blamed for an application for a criminal complaint against a late Georgetown man for failing to appear for jury duty a few months before his death in 2006.

But according to an official with the jury commissioner's office, it's not likely the state will proceed with serving a criminal complaint against and arraigning a man who died five years ago.

State Deputy Jury Commissioner John Cavanaugh said Friday that before a criminal complaint is issued for the late Michael Wylie, his office will take action.

"Given what we now know, we will make an attempt to independently obtain documentation to confirm his death from the (Georgetown) town clerk before the hearing and stop that process," Cavanaugh said. "But this could have been settled if someone in his family had faxed us a copy of his death certificate years ago."

Cavanaugh said that according to state law, the jury commission can't take verbal notice over the phone to excuse individuals from jury duty due to illness or death. The law requires written documentation.

But Steve Schubert, the fiance of Wylie's widow, Cindy, said given advances in technology, it's time for the state to modernize its procedures.

"In this electronic age, there has to be a simpler way to confirm someone's dead than requiring their families to pay for and send in death certificates," Schubert said. "I'm a forensic accountant. They could have done a viral search and come up with his death certificate online."

Cavanagugh said the saga began in 2006 when Wylie was issued a notice to serve on jury duty. At the time, however, Wylie was in hospice care suffering with terminal cancer.

"According to the files, we got a telephone call that said (Wylie) had a medical condition that prevented him from serving," Cavanaugh said. "But we required a doctor's letter, and we never received one."

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