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Fla. state senator seeks ouster of judge who sent juror to jail for oversleeping

Skyler Swisher, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

"I have never seen this kid so much as raise his voice or be angry," Powell said. "He has always been a respectful young man. He is not type of person you would expect to go to jail, especially for oversleeping. This judge's actions were excessive."

Kastrenakes did not immediately return a message left at his office Wednesday seeking comment. At an Oct. 4 court hearing, Kastrenakes said Somerville committed a serious violation by shirking his responsibility.

"He made the decision himself that it wasn't important for him to come back to court, that it wasn't serious, and it wasn't something that he needed to do," Kastrenakes said. "That is exactly the antithesis of honorable service on a jury."

He also said Somerville was needed for diversity reasons. "He was the only African American on the jury, representing a cross-section of the community, and he decided on his own that it wasn't worth his time," the judge explained.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission is charged with investigating allegation of misconduct by Florida state judges. The commission can recommend disciplinary action spanning from a private reprimand to removal from office.

In a letter to the commission, Powell accused the judge of violating his duties by acting in "an unprecedented manner to unfairly punish one individual for a minor transgression, singling him out as an example solely because of his race."

He also wrote the judge violated Florida's Code of Judicial Conduct by rescinding the sentence. The code states that judges "shall not be swayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism."

 

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Kastrenakes, a federal prosecutor, to his post in 2009.

Kastrenakes was elected to a six-year term without opposition in 2010 and was re-elected in 2016 again without an opponent.

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