Ilhan Omar defends black man jailed for oversleeping and missing jury duty

'After going through that, my life will never be the same again,' says 21-year-old man

Maya Oppenheim
Sunday 06 October 2019 11:27
Comments
Deandre Somerville, from West Palm Beach in Florida, was sentenced to 10 days in jail, 150 hours of community service and slapped with a $223 (£180) fine for sleeping through his alarm
Deandre Somerville, from West Palm Beach in Florida, was sentenced to 10 days in jail, 150 hours of community service and slapped with a $223 (£180) fine for sleeping through his alarm

Ilhan Omar has leapt to the defence of a 21-year-old man who was imprisoned for oversleeping and missing the first day of his jury service.

Deandre Somerville, from West Palm Beach in Florida, was sentenced to 10 days in jail, 150 hours of community service and handed a $223 (£180) fine for sleeping through his alarm.

The young man, who cares for his elderly grandfather and works in after-school programmes for the West Palm Beach parks and recreation department, was also ordered to pen a “sincere” apology letter.

Ms Omar, a Democrat representative, argued the stringent sanctions imposed on Mr Somerville were symptomatic of a US criminal justice system devised to “criminalise people of colour”.

The Minnesota congresswoman, who is one of the first Muslim women to serve in the US Congress, tweeted: “This judge put a young black man with no prior arrests in the system for *checks notes* oversleeping. We must reform our criminal justice system, which is designed to criminalize people of colour.”

Mr Somerville, who has already served the jail time, was supposed to be on a jury for a negligence case linked to a car accident at the end of August but slept in around two hours longer than he was supposed to.

The young man, who lives with his grandparents and had no previous criminal record, said he did not get in touch with the court due to feeling anxious.

“I woke up and I was like, ‘Oh shoot, it’s past the time’,” he told WPTV.

He added: “After going through that, my life will never be the same again.”

Mr Somerville, who would have been serving on the jury for the first time, said he could only think about his grandfather throughout the ordeal.

"He depends on me, so it’s hard for him," he said.

Judge John Kastrenakes’ order said Mr Somerville’s no-show at the court postponed the trial by 45 minutes.

On Friday, the judge cut the probation to three months and his community service from 150 to 30 hours after the public defender’s office appealed the misdemeanour conviction.

His community service stipulates he has to give a 10-minute talk about why jury service is imperative at the jury office every week.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in