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Gillis Found Not Guilty in Westwood Man's Death

George Gillis found not guilty on charges stemming from an accident that killed an elderly Westwood man in December 2008.

A Norton man being tried for negligence in the was found not guilty this week. 

George Gillis, 59, of Norton, was found not guilty by jury on Tuesday in regards to a December 2008 accident that killed an elderly Westwood man.

Gillis faced a jail sentence of not less than 30 days and not more than 2 1/2 years, a fine of not less than $300 and not more than $3,000, or both.

"Mr. Gillis has maintained his innocence but also felt very badly about the situation," said Gillis's attorney Edward McCormick. "It was obviously a tragic accident, and the jury found that Mr. Gillis was not negligent."

The trial came nearly two years after the initial incident, which occurred on December 9, 2008. Gillis, the owner of George Gillis Trucking, reportedly backed his construction vehicle over Edward Hansen, 78, of Westwood, who died from his injuries.

A criminal complaint was filed against Gillis in Dedham District Court in April of 2009, which stated that Gillis operated a motor vehicle recklessly and caused the death of Hansen.

Hansen, a former Westwood Library Trustee, lived nearby the construction on Margery Lane. He was reportedly filming the construction and standing behind the truck when he was hit.

The prosecution's argument was that Gillis was responsible for Hansen's death because he failed to check behind the truck before moving it. According to the prosecution, the video evidence made it clear that although Hansen did not hear the alarm, he was stationary and the blame could not be shifted away from Gillis.

McCormick said that Gillis was not at fault because there is no evidence of him speeding or working improperly. Also, the truck is equipped with a very loud alarm that sounds when in reverse. McCormick said that Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) performed an investigation of the incident and filed no citations against Gillis.

The jury traveled to the scene of the accident on Monday morning to get a better feel of the site. In court on Tuesday, the prosecution called five witnesses, and the video taken by Hansen was played.

McCormick said a police investigation found that at the time of the accident Gillis was driving the construction vehicle in reverse going 2.8 miles per hour. He also said that the alarms were going off loudly, which Hansen did not hear because he was not wearing his hearing aid.

"We felt we had a strong defense," said McCormick. "We felt that those factors established that he was not negligent and we were happy that the jury was convinced as well."

After about an hour and a half of deliberation, the jury came to a verdict at 4:30 p.m.

District Attorney spokesman David Traub said would not comment on the results of the trial.

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