Lawmakers Demand Action Against Judge In Jury Duty Jail Time Case

 

At least one member of the Florida Senate wants a judge removed from the bench after a man does 10 days in jail for missing jury duty.

Senator Bobby Powell of West Palm Beach says that when the judge vacated the sentence he handed down to 21-year old Deandre Somerville, he mentioned that the man had been rehabilitated. But Powell says it's the other way around.

"After the public outcry, after being placed on the "Daily Show," I think Judge Kastrenakes has indeed been rehabilitated."

He's joining many who say the sentence was extremely harsh for someone who overslept and chose not to show up for court on the first day of a trial in which he was sworn in to serve.

Powell has requested that the Judicial Qualifications Commission investigate the judge for violating the Judicial Code of Conduct.

"...and I'm hopeful that once they finish their investigation they will push it up to the Supreme Court and will recommend removal."

Powell was surrounded by other members of the state Legislature and said he would speak with state House members.

Somerville's lawyer, Edwin Ferguson, says that while Judge John Kastrenakes vacated the sentence, the time had already been served.

"Simply rescinding the probation, reducing the fines to zero won't give Deandre ten days back."

Ferguson says the punishment was too harsh for a guy with no criminal history.

The judge is white and Somerville is black, and while he didn't go so far as to say race played a role in the judge's decision to give jail time to Somerville, Ferguson did say the judge showed that he is biased toward attorneys and against civilians.

"Attorneys who have directly violated orders of Judge Kastrenakes have not served the first day in jail as a matter of course."

Unlike Powell, Ferguson doesn't necessarily want the judge removed from the bench completely, just sent for some form of rehabilitation. The Chief Judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit has been contacted about the situation.

Somerville is at least the second person this year to spend time in jail after missing jury duty under Kastrenakes. The first one was Keith Lattimore, who allegedly told adminstrators that "he didn't believe in coming to court" and used an expletive while leaving the courthouse, which is a different story from Somerville, whom the judge wrote was "respectful" as he vacated the sentence.

At least one member of Congress is getting involved. While U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel says it's understandable that the would be upset...

"It is not understandable why a young non-offender was thrown into jail for ten days potentially exposed to violent criminals who could rape and beat him."

Frankel says she's known Somerville's family since he was three years old and vouched for him as a law-abiding citizen.

"My fondest memory is when you fell asleep on the front row when I was being sworn in as mayor. I have forgiven you."

Frankel says Deandre's grandfather was her chief assistant for eight years during her time as mayor of West Palm Beach.

The Congresswoman says she's not asking for any action to be taken against the judge.

She and the others who are sticking up for Somerville, say he takes care of his disabled grandfather and missed out on that when he spent those days in jail.

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