Deandre Somerville of West Palm Beach, Florida was on jury service for a civil trial in an auto negligence case. He was told to report for the trial at 09:00am but on the first day of trial, Somerville was not in court forcing the judge to sentence him having delayed the start of the trial for 45 minutes.
Somerville admitted he should have called after awaking and realizing his mistake, but said he was afraid of what might happen. After researching the possible punishment for missing jury duty and finding that “nobody ever actually went to jail for it,” he brushed it off as not a big deal and went on with his day.
He was summoned before Circuit Judge John S. Kastrenakes and was found in contempt of court because of his absence for jury service.
In addition to 10 days in jail, Somerville will be on to one-year probation and 150 hours of community service.
“When a juror is selected and sworn, the administration of justice in this courthouse depends on you following the orders of the court,” Kastrenakes said during sentencing.
The magistrate noted that Somerville was the only African-American juror, “representing a cross-section of the community, and he decided on his own that it wasn’t worth his time.”
Moreover, Somerville was ordered to pay $223 in court costs and pen a letter of apology the court.
While he regrets his actions, the college student said he feels the jail sentence was “a little overdone” and that probation wasn’t needed.
After serving his sentence, Somerville apologized to the court and said his jail stint helped him realize the gravity of the situation.
Kastrenakes also heard testimony from Somerville’s grandparents, who spoke about his solid upbringing, education and work in the community.
In the end, the judge agreed to reduce his probation from a year to just three months and whittled down his required community service to 30 hours.