Criminal Justice

21-Year-Old Oversleeps, Misses Jury Duty, and Goes to Jail for 10 Days

The case is yet another example of our excessively penal criminal justice system.

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"After going through that, my life will never be the same again," says 21-year-old Deandre Somerville after spending 10 nights in jail. His crime? The young black man overslept and missed jury duty.

Somerville initially thought it was a mistake of smaller proportions and was surprised to find that police had shown up to his grandparents' house, where he lives, with a court summons. "My grandfather said, 'Just go in and be honest,'" Somerville told the Associated Press. "I've never had a criminal background, never been arrested, never been in handcuffs. The most I've ever gotten was a traffic ticket so I was thinking it wouldn't be that bad."

He was wrong. At his September court appearance, Palm Beach County Judge John Kastrenakes, angry that Somerville had set the trial back by 45 minutes, immediately had him cuffed and declared him in contempt of court. Kastrenakes sentenced Somerville to 10 days in jail, 12 months of probation, 150 hours of community service, a $223 fine, and a formal apology.

Equating the sentence with just a "taste of jail," Kastrenakes reminded Somerville that he could spend more time there should he fail to adequately satisfy the remaining terms of his sentence.

But after he served the time, Kastrenakes decided that those terms were no longer necessary, declaring Somerville "totally rehabilitated." He initially reduced his sentence to three months probation and 30 hours of community service, but on Monday vacated the entire thing.

"The only reason the Court left him on a short term of probation was so that others could learn and take heed that serving on a jury is serious business deserving of attention, respect, and adherence to their oaths," Kastrenakes wrote in his decision. "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."

Contrary to what the judge thinks, the only thing that has been made clear is just how ludicrously cruel our criminal justice system can be.

The national backlash once again elicited comparisons to actress Felicity Huffman, whose 14-day prison sentence for her role in the college admissions scandal has branded her the unwitting poster child for "lenient" punishments received by the privileged. Amber Guyger has also joined those ranks; the white police officer was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting and killing her black neighbor after mistaking his apartment for her own. But that line-of-thinking only further perpetuates the idea that the most pervasive problem in America's criminal justice system is that there are sentencing disparities across racial lines. That's true, and it's a tragedy. But the greater problem is that exceptionally punitive punishments are a thing in the first place, giving the U.S. the unfortunate marker of having the highest incarceration rate in the world. As I wrote last week:

Racial disparities in sentencing are shrinking, but the pendulum has moved in the wrong direction: Efforts to homogenize punishments with mandatory minimums have only led to more excessive punishments across the board. That includes the less privileged of all races, who were already spending too much time locked away.

That's the wrong kind of equality.

Even so, Somerville's case will likely be propped up as an example of our discriminatory criminal justice system. That might be true. But the bigger takeaway should be that no one deserves any amount of jail time for oversleeping.

NEXT: The Same FBI That Wants To Destroy Encryption Is Still Illegally Snooping on Americans

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  1. That’ll teach him not to vote!

  2. Well, hopefully the kid learned some important lessons: Jury duty is important, and judges are psychopathic assholes.

  3. If I was him I would have crapped my pants right then and there and claimed to have had diarrhea all morning.

  4. The young black man

    Is his color at all relevant here?

    1. Or his age? And, was he *unarmed*?

      1. Or his gender?

      2. His age is only irrelevant in the sense that a 21 year old oversleeping is not news. A 71 year old oversleeping would be news and cause for alarm to his old war buddies that he was supposed to meet for coffee at 6am.

    2. Yep. The judge even mentioned his race during sentencing.

    3. “The young black man

      Is his color at all relevant here?”

      Most definitely if a judge is trying to criminalize an acknowledged cultural attribute of BPT (Black People Time). Black culture is either being criminalized or appropriated. What gives?!

    4. It is because we don’t see cases where they come down hard on young white men. This young man was living with his grandparents suggesting he was also less affluent. Poor and black are not good looks when you are in a court room.

  5. Should I wait for someone to correct the record or give further information that sheds a whole new light on the incident?
    It seems like Binion finally has an incident where it is an actual egregious abuse of power worthy of the sob story. Just gonna hold my breath since he has proven himself very dishonest with these stories

    1. I’ll bite, Binion fails to mention the middle part of the story where, having overslept, Somerville never bothered to head over to the court, never bothered to call the court and inform them of the situation, and actually refused to answer calls from the court when they tried to contact him.

      Still too much of a sentence, but multiple layers of mistakes by Somerville.

      1. Yup, and that the police turned up with a summons “days later.” So he’d not just done squat about his “oversleeping” on the day, he’d continued earnestly doing squat for days.

        We also only have his word for it that he overslept. Much more likely that he just didn’t feel like it on the day.

        I’m fully bought into the notion that judges are, genetically, megalomaniac a**holes, but I think 24 hours in jail would have beeb fine as a, er, wake up call to this young man and fellow “oversleepers.”

        1. Sounds like a 21 year old young man making a stupid mistake. Worth branding for life? Nope.

          Anyone that thinks this is okay should be fed into a wood chipper in front of their loved ones.

        2. “So he’d not just done squat about his “oversleeping” on the day, he’d continued earnestly doing squat for days.”

          Well, he figured the court just fired him for being a no show like his other jobs. Besides there was an alternate juror.

          Well, he did learn that he’d have to be bat shit crazy or a cop to demand a bench trial.

  6. The ‘FORMER’ Police Officer. She had been fired shortly after the incident.

  7. adherence to their oaths

    The oath that you’re forced to make?

  8. Even the Army doesn’t go quite this nuts over being late to formation. At any rate, 12 hours in holding would’ve been a sufficient lesson, were one a punitively inclined judge.

    Then again, I’m the kind of citizen who prays to be called to jury duty! I would literally PAY for the chance to hold the government to account. One of the bitterest ironies of my life was that I was on active duty when I got my one and only jury duty summons.

    1. Even the Army doesn’t go quite this nuts over being late to formation.

      Actually, Army discipline would fit the bill nicely here. 24 hours of scrubbing garbage cans would get the message across.

    2. “I would literally PAY for the chance to hold the government to account.”

      Which is precisely why you will be dismissed. A prosecutor will smell it on you.

  9. OT:
    Environmentalists have a new target: Charmin toilet paper

    “It’s just unacceptable that a company like P&G is making toilet paper, a product that is used for seconds and flushed, from virgin pulp.”

    “Toilet paper should be made by small artisanal communes from recycled llama bedding straw. And it should be hung up to dry and reused multiple times.”

    1. Wood is the most renewable resource we have 😉

      1. Don’t forget whale oil! Whale oil is ALSO short-term renewable, unlike petrol! Get RID of that gasoline, and start driving whale-oil-powered autos, trains, and planes! It is THE newest enviro-responsible THANG to do, nowadays!

          1. Even less funny. VERY boring and predictable, actually. TOTALLY missing a punch line!

          2. Hihn is always funny. Just not typically deliberately.

  10. Huh. I always thought jury duty was like stop signs: they’re more suggestions than an actual requirement

    1. Just tell them that you know about the historical right to “jury nullification”, AND that you’re rarin’ to go, to use it, and they WILL let you go!

  11. OK, I’ll play devil’s advocate.

    Once unlucky enough to be selected for a jury, what is the appropriate penalty for not showing up for the trial? And remember that this impacts a process (like it or not) that can result in the accused forfeiting freedom and property, that costs both the state and private parties thousands per hour, and requires other jurors to sacrifice their personal time.

    1. If the public does not consider it worth their time to show up for jury duty then maybe we should take the hint that that particular case isn’t worth the cost and sacrifices?

      1. Right because jurors get to review the cases they will sit on ahead of time and select only the ones that really light their fire.

  12. Ten days in jail seems steep but on the other hand, potentially inflicting this surprise on others due to your carelessness doesn’t seem quite right, either.

    When the Jury Box Runs Low, Deputies Head for Wal-Mart
    Michael Kanz was pushing a grocery cart toward the checkout lane at the Wal-Mart Supercenter here when a woman wearing a gun walked up and told him to follow her orders — or face the consequences.

    It wasn’t a mugging, but a jury summons to report to court within an hour. And it’s a perfectly legal way some judges have in recent years been getting jurors at the last minute.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB1029790947613016555

  13. I have it on good authority that Judge John Kastrenakes is a fucking asshole slaver. Sounds like he realized how pissed off The People were about the excessive penalty, cruelly imposed, and backpedaled in fear–but the true colors of this authoritarian troglodyte were lain bare by his tantrum and subsequent cowardice in the face of outrage. This is the best way to undermine one’s own legitimacy. He’s shown himself to be an overzealous inquisitor that turns into a pussy when facing the disapproval of his subjects. Step down, you shit-flinging chimp. Who needs ya?

    1. While he’s at it, he should cast himself into the sea.

  14. Best way to solve the juror shortage? Don’t have so many stupid fucking laws–nobody can even count them all.

    Humans are dicks.

  15. So remember, boys and girls, if you get a jury summons, be sure to set an alarm clock.
    And set free whoever is on trial, regardless of any alleged evidence.
    Welcome to the revolution.

  16. Here’s something to blow your mind, man – the guy himself didn’t have the right to a trial by jury.

    It’s the contempt-of-court exception to the Sixth Amendment. It’s not actually written down in the Constitution in the technical sense, but you can sense it in the penumbras.

    Because we all know if that if we’re going to carve out exceptions to the right to jury trial, we should start with cases of contempt of court, where the judge’s authority has supposedly been impugned, thus giving the judge a personal motive to rule against the defendant.

  17. Lucky for the sleepyhead there is a 13th Amendment banning involuntary servitude–and a takings clause–or there could have been some serious repercussions. So was this some Demonic Possession by plant leaves or twigs case?

    1. Let me know how your pro bono defense of him goes.

  18. I don’t think something bad should accidentally happen to this judge.

  19. There’s a larger disparity between male and female sentencing than black and white. About 3 times as much.

  20. Kastrenakes sentenced Somerville to 10 days in jail, 12 months of probation, 150 hours of community service, a $223 fine, and a formal apology.

    WITHOUT A TRIAL?

  21. But that line-of-thinking only further perpetuates the idea that the most pervasive problem in America’s criminal justice system is that there are sentencing disparities across racial lines. That’s true, and it’s a tragedy.

    Yes because every white trash meth head in the court system gets the exact same treatment that a famous multimillionaire actress and a police officer get. Clearly this is race-based disparity having nothing to do with other cultural, social and economic factors. White people who shirk jury duty routinely receive an apology from the prosecutor for having set court so early.

    1. Reminds me of that Eddie Murphy SNL skit where he impersonates a white person.

  22. How about accepting some personal responsibility? Oh wait. We only have to obey laws that we agree with. I’ll side with the Judge here. Maybe ten days was a bit extreme, but, you have to be held accountable for your actions. A few years ago I had to cancel playing in a tournament that I had worked years to qualify for because I was in the pool for Federal Jury Duty. I have no sympathy for him. By the way when I was in the Navy, failure to report for duty or missing movement was punishable by 30 days restriction, half pay for 30 days and reduction in rank. He got off light.

    1. Big fan of coercion?

  23. “21-Year-Old Oversleeps, Misses Jury Duty, and Goes to Jail for 10 Days.”

    Not to worry.
    He’ll get plenty of extra sleep in jail especially if he get’s stabbed a few times by his fellow inmates.

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