WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CNN Newsource) — A Florida man now has a criminal record after missing jury duty — he says — by accident.
21-year-old Deandre Somerville learned the hard way why you can’t miss jury duty.
“After going through that, it’s like my life will never be the same again,” Somerville said.
In August, he was sworn in as a juror on a civil case he was to return the next day — but he overslept.
“I woke up and I looked at the time and I was like, ‘oh shoot, it’s past the time.’”
Mistake number two — he didn’t call the jury office to let them know what was going on.
Days later, he was served with a subpoena to go before the judge.
“I talked to my granddad for a while and he said the best thing you can always do is honesty, so I went for the hearing.”
Somerville lives with his grandparents and helps look after his grandfather by taking him to therapy.
“My grandma was saying I think you should dress up, and I was like, ‘nah, I’m going to wear my work clothes because I felt like, at least he can see that I’m doing something. Because a lot of times people get stereotyped, ‘oh he’s just another black boy out here doing something he’s not supposed to be doing’.”
But the 21-year-old didn’t see what was coming.
“I just said, ‘sir, honestly, I overslept and I didn’t understand the seriousness of this’. He asked me if I had a criminal record, I said ‘sir, I’ve never been arrested’.”
Transcripts show Somerville apologized but the judge sentenced him to 10 days in jail.
Somerville said all he could think about was his grandfather.
“He depends on me so it’s hard for him.”
Judge John Kastrenakis’ order said Somerville’s failure to appear delayed the trial by 45 minutes and the court couldn’t reach him.
Criminal analyst Michelle Suskauer said these cases are not common.
“This is going to show others you have to take this very seriously,” Suskauer said. “But this 21-year-old with no prior record now has a misdemeanor conviction. Could there have been other alternatives to maybe be more instructive and less punitive? It’s possible.”
He spent 10 days in jail, is on probation for one year and has to complete 150 hours of community service.
“It hurts but it’s like a lesson learned,” he said. “It could have been worse. He could have given me 365 days in jail.”
The judge said in an explanation that the sentencing went forward because there was no good reason Somerville missed jury duty.
He didn’t comment, citing that the case is still pending.