Prior to a jury deliberating a case, its members must listen to and swear by an oath as dictated by O.C.G.A. § 15-12-139. The oath requires that jurors provide a verdict according to the evidence presented during trial, a reminder that they should let the facts dictate the outcome. In a case before Cobb State Court, a defendant, who was charged with DUI per se and other offenses, filed a motion for a new trial because the judge didn’t perform the oath until after the jury had already started deciding the defendant’s fate. The judge granted the new trial upon realizing her oversight. The prosecution appealed, contending that the jury members took the oath before reaching a verdict and “there was no evidence of harm.”
Georgia’s Court of Appeals reviewed the case, noting the conclusion of Adams v. State, 286 Ga. 496 (2010). Ideally, the oath should be applied when the jury is empaneled, but “in the absence of a showing of actual prejudice, there is no reversible error if a belated oath is given prior to the jury’s deliberations.” The Court felt that in this particular situation the oath was delivered so late that it caused the jury to be “fatally infirm.” The Court upheld the trial court’s decision to grant the defendant a new trial.