Michelle GonzalezArticles Editor

Jury service is one of the most important civic duties you can perform. The protection of rights and liberties in federal courts largely is achieved through the teamwork of a judge and jury.”  There are certain qualifications that need to be satisfied in order for an individual to be randomly selected for jury duty.

On August 20, 2019, 21-year-old Deandre Somerville showed up for jury selection in Judge Kastrenakes’ courtroom in Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit.  Mr. Somerville was randomly selected to participate in the three-day negligence trial involving a car accident and he was ordered to come back the following day. On August 21, 2019, Mr. Somerville overslept and found that he had slept through the beginning of the trial.  Mr. Somerville decided to go into work instead of jury duty and did not call the court to inform Judge Kastrenakes why he was not there.  He also did not return subsequent phone calls from the court staff.

Somerville was scolded by the Honorable Kastrenakes at a contempt hearing on September 20.  He explained that he did not know the seriousness of jury duty and owed him an apology.  Somerville was sentenced to 10 days of jail, a year of probation, 150 hours of community service, $223 in court costs, and ordered him to write a letter of apology to the Court. On October 4, the Honorable Kastrenakes reduced his sentence to three months’ probation and 30 hours of community service. After “sleeping on it” and hearing Somerville’s admission of guilt, the Honorable Kastrenakes believed that Somerville deserved more than just a reduction of his sentence, but a rescission of the contempt finding.

According to Michelle Suskauer, WPTV’s criminal analyst, said that these cases are uncommon.  “This is going to show others you have to take this very seriously, but this 21-year-old with no prior record now has a misdemeanor conviction,” said Suskauer. There are many other alternatives that could have been used to teach Somerville and everyone else the importance of attending jury duty that were less punitive.  Punishment for missing jury duty should be implemented but it should not be to the degree that an individual with a clean record now has a misdemeanor.  Guidelines for punishment should be put in place, but there should also be restrictions on the punishment that one can receive.