Judge has change of heart after sending man to jail for missing jury duty

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — He was sent to jail for 10 days because he overslept and failed to return to court for his jury service. On Friday, the West Palm Beach 21-year-old man was able to fill an entire courtroom of family and friends to show the judge another side of him.

DeAndre Somerville read a letter to the court reiterating his apology for what he did. He called his punishment a long traumatic 10 days in jail, something he would not wish upon his worst enemy, WPTV reports.

“This was an immature decision that I made and I paid the price for my freedom,” said Somerville in open court in a letter to the judge.

The 21-year-old made it clear to the judge that going to jail for 10 days was a hell he’d never want to visit again.

“Before my hearing, I walked into the courtroom a free man with no criminal record. I left a criminal in handcuffs,” said Somerville.

On September 20, Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court Judge John Kastrenakis remanded Somerville to custody when he admitted to oversleeping and failing to return to court for jury duty. Somerville had already been sworn in to serve on a jury in a civil case. His absence delayed the trial for 45 minutes as court employees tried to reach him.

“I came to the conclusion it was deserving of punishment; good people make bad mistakes,” said Judge Kastrenakis, who said he appreciated Somerville’s honesty but his personal decision to not return to court was a confession of contempt.

On Friday, Judge Kastrenakis got to learn more about Somerville’s character: He’s a church drummer, and part-time city employee who takes care of his grandfather, who is disabled. He also volunteers at food drives and has helped paint homes for Habitat for Humanity.

“I love my son. He’s a great person, but he’s 21 and 21-year-olds can just be irresponsible [sometimes]” said Annique Owens, Somerville’s mother.

The mistake Somerville made, and has owned up to, also caused pain and suffering to his family. Owens talked to her son in jail every day while he was in there and had to hear about how he saw someone get beat up right in front of him, how he stopped eating, how he barely slept, and had fevers his last nights there.

“I said, ‘I can try to send you money,’ and he said, ‘no, what I need from you is to answer the phone when I call. That’s what I want mom, just answer the phone when I call,'” said Owens in tears. “So that was hard and we did it for 10 days.”

In his ruling on Saturday, Kastrenakes said that Somerville’s letter was “moving, sincere and heartfelt.”

“I know that he has been totally rehabilitated,” the judge wrote.

He said that he ordered probation because he wanted other people to understand that serving on a jury “is serious business deserving of attention, respect and adherence to their oaths.”

He said the publicity surrounding the case made this clear, so Somerville’s punishment was no longer necessary.

Kastrenakes praised Sommerville as “a thoughtful and respectful young man” and said he was vacating the contempt finding and rescinding the sentence of probation, so it would not be on his record.

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