Since You Asked: Why is so much info needed for jury duty?
Q: Recently, I was summoned for jury duty. Anticipating a drug, assault or sexual violence case, I wondered why they have the defendant in the court room while I answered questions about my name, job history, information about my spouse and children. Why would the defendant need to know all that personal information?
A: In most cases, the defendant has the right to be present during all critical phases in his or her trial, including the jury selection process.
Basic personal information is used to ensure the defendant receives a fair trial from a jury of his or her peers, according to Pat McGrath, Yuba County district attorney.
"California law requires certain information so attorneys can determine if there's a bias that could impact that particular case," McGrath said.
For example, if a case involves a firefighter and you or your spouse work for a fire department, an attorney would likely believe you would probably favor the firefighter's side. The same could be said if the case involves children and you're a parent.
Questions about your family guarantees you don't know anyone in the system (attorneys, judges, jailers, police officers, etc.,) that may also potentially bias your decision.
There are times, McGrath said, when potential jurors are assigned numbers and allowed to conceal their identities.
"That happens when a judge believes the need to protect identities outweighs a defendant's right to a completely public trial," McGrath said. "It happens in some high profile cases, for example, or when gang violence is involved or there's a greater potential for juror intimidation."
In most cases, however, personal information is included to reduce the risk of jury bias.
"Trials are public and anyone can wander in and watch whether they have an interest in the case or not," McGrath noted. "Otherwise, it wouldn't be a public trial."
Red-light camera fines
Q: Who pays the fine when a Yuba-Sutter driver gets a ticket from a red-light camera? Do the counties or cities have to pay any part of the citation?
A: The short answer is no.
Taxpayers never enter the equation when a local bus driver is cited for any type of moving violation.
"The fine comes out of the driver's pocket," said Keith Martin, manager of Yuba-Sutter Transit.
Local transit drivers are contracted through Veolia Transportation.
The Illinois-based transit company has operated the Yuba-Sutter bus system since 1998, with nearly 90 employees operating more than 45 vehicles, authorities said.
Officials renewed a three-year contract with the company in July of last year.
Veolia Transportation handles all vehicle maintenance costs, as well, according to a company press statement.
Martin said Yuba-Sutter transit employs three people and has operated in various formats in Sutter and Yuba counties since 1975.