Criminal Justice

Judge who jailed missing juror for 10 days rescinds contempt finding and sentence after backlash

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Deandre Somerville has already served 10 days in jail for missing jury duty, but he won’t have to serve a year of probation and provide community service due to a change of heart by the judge.

Judge John Kastrenakes of Palm Beach County, Florida, at first downgraded the sentence on Friday after Somerville, 21, apologized in court, report the South Florida Sun Sentinel, USA Today and the Washington Post. Kastrenakes said Somerville would have to serve only three months of probation, and he wouldn’t be judged guilty of the misdemeanor offense of breaking the court’s rules.

Then on Monday, Kastrenakes said he decided on the weekend to also rescind a Sept. 20 contempt finding and vacate Somerville’s entire sentence of probation and community service.

Kastrenakes said publicity surrounding the case had made clear how important it is for jurors to abide by the law. In an order filed Monday, Kastrenakes declared that Somerville was “totally rehabilitated.”

Somerville was chosen as a juror on Aug. 20, but he didn’t show up for the trial the next day. He didn’t return phone calls from the court. When Kastrenakes required Somerville to come to court and explain what happened, Somerville said he overslept.

Somerville, who is black, had no previous arrest record. Kastrenakes is white. After his release from jail, Somerville said his life will never be the same again.

The judge’s initial sentence led to a backlash social media, the Hill reports. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was among those criticizing the sentence. “We must reform our criminal justice system, which is designed to criminalize people of color,” she tweeted.

Trevor Noah also was critical on The Daily Show. “You know racism is bad in America when a black man can get thrown in jail at someone else’s trial,” he said.

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