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When you are Black and caught up in the criminal justice system, the powers that be can find any reason to put you behind bars. Sadly, 21-year-old Deandre Somerville’s life is now changed because he has a record only because of jury duty. 

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Somerville was supposed to serve on a jury in West Palm Beach County, Florida. He overslept, missed his ride to the courthouse and the trial started 45 minutes late. Circuit Civil Judge John Kastrenakes sentenced to Somerville to 10 days in jail, a year probation and a permanent mark on his record. On Sept. 20, Kastrenakes said “waiting for juror Somerville and his conduct impeded the due administration of justice.”

According to court transcripts, Kastrenakes also said, “I’m dead serious about this. Dead serious. If you don’t do the community service hours as I’ve ordered, you face up to six months in jail, all right? This is just a taste of jail and it’s not that long. You’ll do this 10 days and then you’ll come out and you’ll do everything on probation. I’m going to monitor you, make sure your probation is — you adhere to all the rules and conditions of probation.”

Somerville told BuzzFeed, “Twenty-four hours in a day felt like 48-hours in a day. All I could do was think, being around criminals, now I am a criminal for doing something that’s not even a real criminal act. I had to tell myself, I am not a criminal. Those 10 days were long and traumatic days.”

He also said, “I should have called, and I own up to that. I made a mistake, but I didn’t know I would go to jail. They don’t tell you that if you miss jury duty you go to jail. I don’t even have a criminal record.”

See the news clip below:

The misdemeanor charge was going to permanently stay on Sommerville’s record but that has changed after outage at the judge. Palm Beach Post reports, “Circuit Civil Judge John Kastrenakes reduced Deandre Somerville’s probation time to three months from 12 and said he would change his conviction for contempt of court to an adjudication withheld, removing the sole criminal offense the young man’s record.”

Sounds like Judge John Kastrenakes was itching to lock up this young man.

This is America.


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