He got picked for jury duty in a civil trial, but when Deandre Somerville overslept, it became a criminal matter — for him.
Mr. Somerville, 21, of West Palm Beach, Fla., was ruled in direct criminal contempt of court last month by a circuit court judge, who sentenced him to 10 days in jail and one year of probation for missing jury duty, court records showed.
The judge, John S. Kastrenakes, ordered Mr. Somerville to perform 150 hours of community service, pay a $223 fine and write a “sincere” letter of apology of at least 100 words after he missed an Aug. 21 trial date.
Mr. Somerville, who already served his jail sentence, is appealing the misdemeanor judgment against him. His next court date is Friday. “My first reaction when I woke up was, ‘Oh shoot, I overslept,’” Mr. Somerville said Thursday, adding that he should have notified the court, but that he had been nervous about the repercussions.
“That should have been the first thing I should have done,” he said. “I thought maybe the most I could get was a fine.”
Not long after missing jury duty, he said, the police showed up at his grandparents’ home, which is where Mr. Somerville lives.
He said his grandparents told him, “The best thing you can do is be honest.”
Mr. Somerville was one of six jurors seated in an automobile accident negligence case in the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida in West Palm Beach. Judge Kastrenakes chewed out Mr. Somerville during a Sept. 20 hearing, according to a court transcript.
“You failed to come to court,” Judge Kastrenakes said. “We waited almost an hour for you to come to court; you didn’t come. I had the jury office call to see where you were. God forbid you’d been in an accident or something terrible had happened. You shut your phone off.”
Mr. Somerville said he deserved a fine or another penalty, but characterized the judge’s sentence as harsh.
“I told him, ‘Sir, I’ve never been in jail,’” said Mr. Somerville, who works part-time at the local parks department. “I’ve never been arrested. I kind of felt like he belittled me.”
Mr. Somerville helps care for his grandfather, who had a heart attack and uses a walker and a scooter to get around, the public defender’s office said in a court filing.
Court representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The public defender’s office said Thursday it could not comment on a pending case.
Mr. Somerville said it had been traumatizing to spend 10 days in a local jail.
“It’s like I’m really in jail with cold, hard criminals,” he said.
J. Freddy Rhoads, the lawyer for the plaintiff in the civil trial for which Mr. Somerville had been selected as a juror, said an alternate juror was used in the case.
“We’ve had jurors not show up, but for various reasons,” he said, adding that it was unusual for a juror to miss duty and not notify the court at all.