21-Year-Old Served 10 Days in Jail For Missing Jury Duty
|thenorthstar||Oct 8, 2019|
A 21-year-old Black man from Florida was sentenced to 10 days in jail after he overslept and missed jury duty.
Deandre Somerville of West Palm Beach, Florida told WPTV he was sworn into a civil case as a juror in August, but overslept the following day when he had to return to the trial. After not calling the jury office the day of to let them know what happened, he was served with a subpoena to go before the judge a few days later.
"I should have called," Somerville told NBC News. "But I was kind of nervous. I also went online to look up what could really happen, and I didn't really see too much there.... [It looked like] nobody actually ever really went to jail for it."
Somerville, who works for the city's Parks and Recreation Department and lives with his grandparents, appeared before the judge and apologized for not returning for the trial.
"I said, 'Sir, honestly I overslept and I didn't understand the seriousness of this.' He asked me if I had a criminal record. I said, 'Sir, I've never been arrested,'" Somerville told WPTV.
Despite his apology, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge John S. Kastrenakes found the 21-year-old in criminal contempt of court. In court records obtained by WPTV, it stated that the court was delayed for 45 minutes and tried to reach him, but could not.
"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, according to court records.
Somerville was sentenced to 10 days in jail, put on probation for a year, ordered to complete 150 hours of community service, and required to write an apology letter, according to WPTV. The 21-year-old also was instructed to pay $223 to cover court costs. He told NBC News his time in prison was “traumatic,” and he believes his sentence and his probation were a bit extreme.
"I feel like I didn't need any rehabilitation," Somerville told the news station about his probation. "I just made a mistake."
In his apology letter to the court, he said his decision to not appear in court was “immature” and said the incident was a “wake-up call.”
"This was an immature decision that I made and I paid for with my freedom," the letter read. "I am extremely sorry for my actions. I also sincerely apologize for delaying the trial by 45 minutes and not being considerate of other people’s time."
"I know I may have to live with a record that follows me for the rest of my life," the letter continued. "This was definitely a learning experience and a wake-up call for me.... I’m determined to not let this define who I am and what my future will be."
After Somerville served the jail sentence and his case reached national news, Kastrenakes rescinded the probation order and cleared the conviction from the 21-year-old’s record, according to The Washington Post.
In September, a woman from Pennsylvania was wrongly imprisoned and then assaulted in jail. Desiree Pinkston, 35, was accused of stabbing two women in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and charged with conspiracy to commit criminal homicide and aggravated assault, KDKA previously reported. While in Allegheny County Jail, Pinkston was assaulted by another woman who heard she had been charged with the stabbing, even though she maintained her innocence.
Pinkston, a mother of three, told the news station she had to seek medical attention for her injuries after she was released from jail.
“Then I got some injuries on my left elbow, and I went through all of this over some charges that the Pittsburgh police said that I did something,” Pinkston told KDKA. “No one else said that I did anything.”
Pinkston told the news station that during the time of the stabbing, she was at a doctor’s appointment with her daughter in Westmoreland County. She suggested she may have been wrongly accused of the stabbing because of her last name and because of her criminal record, which dates back to when she was 18-years-old, according to KDKA.
The Allegheny County District’s Attorney’s Office told the news station it was a case of mistaken identity and the charges against Pinkston were dropped. Despite this, Pinkston was forced to pay $1,000 of a $20,000 bond to regain her freedom.
“I had to call off work last night because of the injuries I suffered in the Allegheny County Jail,” she told KDKA. “Who pays for my suffering that I just went through?”
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, includingNewsweek,Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers likeThe Wave and The Home Reporter.