Overslept for jury duty? Judge gave juror 10 days in jail
Judge’s disturbing reaction to 21-year-old black man Deandre Somerville
This post was originally published on Medium on October 8, 2019.
Less than 24 hours ago, I stood in front of a bar full of storytellers and gushed over how much I enjoy jury duty. I respect the process and enjoy hearing both sides of any case. It’s one of the reasons I leaned into journalism so much. While I usually start with a pretty strong opinion on most news reports, I can be swayed. I actually enjoy reading or listening to any story* to consider both sides of it.
But there’s pretty much nothing that could convince me that the actions of Judge John S. Kastrenakes, a civil court judge in Palm Beach County, Florida, were justifiable. If you have not followed the recent story, news reports confirm that 21-year-old Deandre Somerville missed jury duty. The young, African-American male would have been the only black juror during this three-day negligence trial involving a car accident.
Randomly selected on Aug. 20, he was ordered to come back the next day. On Aug. 21, he woke up between 11–11:30 a.m. and realized he slept through the trial. Instead of showing up late and explaining himself, he reportedly went to his regular job. Now I cannot defend the man for not calling the court to explain why he didn’t show up nor ignoring follow-up phone calls from the court system. He should have.
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I remember showing up about 15 minutes late to jury duty because I got caught in the stairs. (The Chicago courthouse I was assigned to had staircases that lock, and you must take the elevator wherever you go.) I got off at the wrong floor, completely forgot about the locked stairwells, and decided to walk up one flight but got stuck. I had to run down more than 10 flights of stairs, rush back to the main floor and figure out where my courtroom was again.