“After going through that, my life will never be the same again,” says 21-year-old Deandre Somerville after spending 10 nights in jail. His crime? The young black man overslept and missed jury duty.
Somerville initially thought it was a mistake of smaller proportions and was surprised to find that police had shown up to his grandparents’ house, where he lives, with a court summons. “My grandfather said, ‘Just go in and be honest,'” Somerville told the Associated Press. “I’ve never had a criminal background, never been arrested, never been in handcuffs. The most I’ve ever gotten was a traffic ticket so I was thinking it wouldn’t be that bad.”
He was wrong. At his September court appearance, Palm Beach County Judge John Kastrenakes, angry that Somerville had set the trial back by 45 minutes, immediately had him cuffed and declared him in contempt of court. Kastrenakes sentenced Somerville to 10 days in jail, 12 months of probation, 150 hours of community service, a $223 fine, and a formal apology.
Equating the sentence with just a “taste of jail,” Kastrenakes reminded Somerville that he could spend more time there should he fail to adequately satisfy the remaining terms of his sentence.
But after he served the time, Kastrenakes decided that those terms were no longer necessary, declaring Somerville “totally rehabilitated.” He initially reduced his sentence to three months probation and 30 hours of community service, but on Monday vacated the entire thing.
“The only reason the Court left him on a short term of probation was so that others could learn and take heed that serving on a jury is serious business deserving of attention, respect, and adherence to their oaths,” Kastrenakes wrote in his decision. “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.”
Contrary to what the judge thinks, the only thing that has been made clear is just how ludicrously cruel our criminal justice system can be.
The national backlash once again elicited comparisons to actress Felicity Huffman, whose 14-day
You can read the rest of this article at: https://reason.com/2019/10/09/21-year-old-oversleeps-misses-jury-duty-and-goes-to-jail-for-10-days/