Florida Judge Sentences 21-Year-Old to 10 Days in Jail for Missing Jury Duty

Deandre Somerville was sentenced to 10 days in prison, one-year probation and 150 hours of community service for missing a jury service in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Photo: Brynn Anderson (AP)

Talk about getting an “n-word wake up call”—to quote legendary comic Paul Mooney.

A young black man, who said he overslept and missed jury duty, got the book thrown at him.

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Whether or not we are now considering missing jury duty a crime, a judge in Florida says it is—and it’s punishable by law.

21-year-old Deandre Somerville was sentenced to 10 days in jail plus one year of probation and 150 hours of community service after failing to show up for a trial in August.

According to NBC News, the West Palm Beach, Fla., native was chosen as a juror Aug. 20 for a civil trial in Florida’s 15th judicial circuit and was ordered to return the following day at 9:30 a.m.

He reportedly woke up late and sought answers online regarding possible punishments for missing jury duty.

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“I should have called,” he told the outlet. “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.”

A rude awakening, literally, soon came upon him.

Somerville, who works for the West Palm Beach Parks and Recreation Department’s afterschool programs, was cited for criminal contempt of the court by Palm Beach County Circuit Judge John S. Kastrenakes on Sept. 23.

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“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, adding that the trial was delayed for almost an hour while the court waited for the young man.

In addition to an initial sentence of 10 days in jail, one year of probation and 150 hours of community service, Somerville was also required to write a letter of apology to the court and pay $223 to cover court costs.

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At the hearing Friday, Somerville, who said the jail sentence—which he served—was “a little overdone” and read his letter of apology aloud to the court.

“This was an immature decision that I made and I paid for with my freedom,” the letter read, according to NBC News. “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.”

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“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.”

During the hearing, his probation was reduced to three months and his community service requirement was reduced to 30 hours.

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Somerville, who plans to be a firefighter, told the Associated Press that he prayed daily and wrote in a notebook.

“I feel like I didn’t need any rehabilitation… I just made a mistake,” he told NBC News.

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About the author

Karu F. Daniels

Hailing from "the thorough borough" of Brooklyn, Mr. Daniels has written for The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, Essence, VIBE, NBC News, The Daily Beast, The New York Daily News and Word Up!