21-year old Deandre Somerville who was sentenced to 10 days in prison after he missed his juror duties has appealed against the sentence, arguing it was “excessive”.
The youngster from West Palm Beach, Florida, was selected to serve on a civil jury in August at Florida’s 15th judicial circuit but missed it because he overslept.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge John Kastrenakis found him in direct contempt of court as Somerville didn’t contact the court to explain his absence, the judge wrote in a court order. His failure to show up also delayed the trial for 45 minutes.
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Somerville, who was selected to serve as a juror in August, had no criminal record prior to the incident.
Speaking after his hearing on Friday, Somerville told WPTV, “I just 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.”
His sentence also includes 150 hours of community service, a written apology of at least 100 words, a year of probation and $233 in fees, according to court records.
His case has earned social media traction, with many people called his punishment unfair while others feel that a misdemeanor charge will affect his prospects of getting a job.
“Before my hearing, I walked into the courtroom a free man with no criminal record.” A distraught Somerville told the court, “I left a criminal in handcuffs.”
Somerville apologized in a letter to the judge after friends and family vouched for him at a court appearance on Friday. “This was an immature decision that I made, and I paid the price for my freedom,” Somerville said, reading from his letter.
Kastrenakes ultimately decided to reduce Somerville’s probation, even though he maintained that the young juror had committed a serious offense.
“I came to the conclusion it was deserving of punishment. Good people make bad mistakes,” Kastrenakis said.
Instead of a year of probation, Somerville will now serve just three months, according to court records. His 150 hours of community service were reduced to 30 hours, which includes reporting to the jury office once a week to give a 10-minute talk on the importance of jury duty.