Royal Palm Beach resident DeAndre Somerville’s case of being jailed and put on probation after sleeping through jury duty ended Monday when Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge John Kastrenakes vacated the charge.
Kastrenakes claimed to have been swayed by Somerville’s conduct in a hearing Friday.
“He is a thoughtful and respectful young man,” Kastrenakes order concluded. “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. In conclusion, I do not want even a finding of contempt to be gleaned from a perusal of his background or record.”
Kastrenakes was the judge who found Somerville in contempt and sentenced him to 10 days in jail and one year of probation after Somerville didn’t show up on Aug. 21 at 9:30 a.m. Somerville, 21, had been selected as a juror in a civil trial. Court records say his absence caused a 45-minute delay in the trial.
For some around the nation, putting a young black man with no previous criminal record behind bars and giving him a record for oversleeping epitomized racial bias in the criminal justice system. Kastrenakes said he intended the probation to be a lesson about the seriousness of jury duty.
“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. “Therefore, there exists no reason to continue Mr. Somerville on probation.”
In Monday’s order, Kastrenakes didn’t back off his original action, stating Somerville didn’t show up late, but never showed up, period. He also said Somerville ignored phone calls from the court and jury office. He said Somerville’s next contact was answer until a Sept. 20 hearing on the contempt charge.
At that hearing, Somerville said he didn’t make contact after waking up late “because he decided it was not important.”
Kastrenakes claimed, “The Court also knows that it would have punished anyone who behaved the way Mr. Somerville behaved in the same manner.”
But, during Friday’s mitigation hearing, “I was extremely impressed by his family’s character, support and forthrightness. More importantly, the apology letter read by Mr. Somerville was moving, sincere and heartfelt. I know he has been totally rehabilitated.”