Arlington man called for jury duty, four years after his death
By KIRK BOXLEITNER
Arlington Times Reporter
July 22, 2009 · Updated 2:17 PM
ARLINGTON — When Arlington resident Billye Brooks-Sebastiani received a letter in the mail on May 28 for her husband, Thomas Sebastiani, informing him that he'd been selected for jury duty at the Cascade District Court, she thought he had a pretty good excuse for skipping out on it, since Thomas Sebastiani died of kidney cancer on Oct. 4, 2005.
Billye Brooks-Sebastiani hadn't received a ballot for her husband for last year's elections, so she felt confident that his name had been removed from the voting rolls, but in September of 2008, the state Department of Licensing sent a notice to her husband, reminding him that the driver's license he'd obtained in 2003 needed to be renewed. Billye Brooks-Sebastiani contacted the DOL and told them to strike Thomas Sebastiani from their records, but she didn't give it another thought until she received a summons for him to report for three days of jury duty, starting June 24.
Billye Brooks-Sebastiani contacted the courthouse and told them to update their records, as well. When she asked how this glitch had occurred, she received much the same information that The Arlington Times received from Snohomish County Court Administrator Bob Terwilliger. Terwilliger explained that the court's jury duty rolls are drawn from random number polls of voter registration, licensing and state-issued ID cards, and acknowledged that it is possible for dead people to receive jury duty summonses, due to the two to three weeks of lead time with which jury duty lists are assembled, as well as the fact that the master lists are compiled once a year in July.
"We don't control the information from those sources," said Terwilliger, who nonetheless conceded that, due to the number of years ago when Thomas Sebastiani died, "It shouldn't have happened in this case."
Terwilliger noted that glitches have also occurred in instances of out-of-state deaths, or in cases when citizens' licenses, voter registrations or death certificates have had different names from one another, but he added that, "It's obviously not non-existent, but the probability of something like this happening is not major, if at all."
Billye Brooks-Sebastiani hadn't even heard of state-issued ID cards, until she called the courthouse, and she called the DOL about her husband in September of last year. Furthermore, Snohomish County Elections Manager Garth Fell reported to The Arlington Times that Thomas Sebastiani's voter registration was cancelled in 2005, the same year that he died.
"We make a diligent effort to keep our voting rolls clean," Fell said. "We check newspaper obituaries daily, as well as public health records. At the same time, we appreciate having the public help us by letting us know about these things directly."
In spite of such assurances, Billye Brooks-Sebastiani sees her experiences as evidence that the state "still has a big problem" with maintaining accurate database information.
"It's totally amazing that, even with modern technology, we can't manage these records," Billye Brooks-Sebastiani said. "If they can't keep track of this, how can they keep track of criminals, or monitor sex offenders? It calls their whole credibility into question."Contact Arlington Times Reporter Kirk Boxleitner at email@example.com or 360-659-1300 Ext. 5052.