A Florida man chosen for jury duty was handed a sentence of his own last month after mistakenly sleeping through the first day of trial.
Deandre Somerville of West Palm Beach, was ordered to serve 10 days in jail after oversleeping and failing to arrive for jury duty without notifying the court, according to court records obtained by NBC News.
The 21-year-old college student was selected as a juror August 20 for civil trial in an auto negligence case and told to return to the courthouse the next day at 9:30 a.m sharp. The judge and fellow jurors were left waiting, however, as the young man was still fast asleep, forcing the judge to delay the start of the trial by 45 minutes, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Somerville admitted he should have called after awaking and realizing his mistake, but said he was afraid of what might happen. After researching the possible punishment for missing jury duty and finding that “nobody ever actually went to jail for it,” he brushed it off as not a big deal and went on with his day.
He was wrong.
Summoned before Circuit Judge John S. Kastrenakes on Sept. 20, Somerville was found in contempt of court because of his no-show, the Sun Sentinel reported. Kastrenakes slapped the man with a 10-day jail sentence, in addition to one year probation and 150 hours of community service.
“When a juror is selected and sworn, the administration of justice in this courthouse depends on you following the orders of the court,” Kastrenakes said, per court documents.
The magistrate noted that Somerville was the only African-American juror, “representing a cross-section of the community, and he decided on his own that it wasn’t worth his time.”
Moreover, Somerville was ordered to pay $223 in court costs and pen a letter of apology the court.
“Upon waking up and realizing I was extremely late, I failed to comply with rules and contact the courthouse to notify them,” Somerville, 21, read in an apology letter to the judge. “This was an immature decision that I made, and I paid the price for my freedom.”
“As a result of my irresponsible actions, my life has been forever changed,” he added. “Everything I’ve gone through … I would not wish on my worst enemy.”
While he regrets his actions, the college student said he feels the jail sentence was “a little overdone” and that probation wasn’t needed.
“I feel like I didn’t need any rehabilitation,” Somerville told NBC News of his probation, arguing that his time behind bars was rehabilitation enough. “I just made a mistake.”
After serving his sentence, the young man apologized to the court and said his jail stint helped him realize the gravity of the situation. Kastrenakes also heard testimony from Somerville’s grandparents, who spoke about his solid upbringing, education and work in the community.
In the end, the judge agreed to reduce his probation from a year to just three months and whittled down his required community service to 30 hours, the outlet reported. As a condition of his probation, Kastrenakes also asked Somerville to serve as a sort of spokesman for jury misconduct.
” I want … you [to] help others to understand the importance of jury service, the importance of honorable service, the adherence to your oath, and the importance of following the orders of the court.”
Somerville was released from the Palm Beach County Jail on Sept. 29.
“This was definitely a learning experience and a wake-up call for me,” he said. “I’m determined to not let this define who I am and what my future will be.”
Watch more in the video below.