Jury Duty Jail Sentence

Deandre Somerville, 21, of West Palm Beach poses for a portrait on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, in West Palm Beach, Fla. A judge sentenced Somerville to 10 days in prison, one year probation and 150 hours of community service for missing a jury service. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

When Deandre Somerville overslept and missed jury duty in August, Judge John S. Kastrenakes was not impressed. He held Somerville in contempt, scolded him in court and slapped him with a 10-day jail sentence and one year of probation — Somerville’s first criminal offense.

On Friday, Judge Kastrenakes, of the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida in West Palm Beach, reduced the probation to three months and community service from 150 hours to 30 hours after an appeal from Somerville’s lawyer.

And now, the judge has reversed himself entirely.

One day after Somerville appeared at a hearing Friday and read a letter apologizing to the court (which Kastrenakes had ordered him to do), the judge rescinded his finding of criminal contempt and declared Somerville “totally rehabilitated.”

“I firmly believe that Deandre Somerville is the type of person who can achieve anything he wants in this world,” Kastrenakes wrote in an order dated Saturday. “He is a thoughtful and respectful young man. He cares deeply about his family.”

“I know he now understands and respects our system of justice and the critical role jurors play in that system,” he continued. “In conclusion, I do not want even a finding of contempt to be gleaned from a perusal of his background or record.”

Neither Kastrenakes nor Somerville could immediately be reached for comment Monday night.

The whole episode began after Somerville, 21, failed to show up for jury duty on the morning of Aug. 21 for the opening of a trial in a negligence case involving a car accident.

Somerville said last week that he had overslept. He said that he should have notified the court, but that he had been nervous about the repercussions.

“That should have been the first thing I should have done,” he said. “I thought maybe the most I could get was a fine.”

Not long after he failed to show, the police showed up at his home.

At a Sept. 20 hearing, Kastrenakes scolded Somerville.

“You failed to come to court,” Kastrenakes said, according to a court transcript. “We waited almost an hour for you to come to court; you didn’t come. I had the jury office call to see where you were. God forbid you’d been in an accident or something terrible had happened. You shut your phone off.”

The 10-day jail sentence, which Somerville served, was widely criticized as overly harsh.

In his order Saturday, Kastrenakes defended himself, saying that the probation was “so that others could learn and take heed that serving on a jury is serious business.”

“Given the abundant publicity surrounding Mr. Somerville’s case, I have concluded that the importance and seriousness of a sworn juror abiding by the law has been made clear,” the judge wrote. — (The New York Times)

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