County prosecutor sees all aspects of life

By LENA MITCHELL/DAILY JOURNAL CORINTH BUREAU/ Most people never set foot in a courtroom unless called for jury duty.
In the worst case, a series of tragic events could bring one to court on felony charges.
But for the average citizen a trip to court could result from an incident of daily life – a traffic ticket, a dispute with neighbors, a child’s truancy.
Those are among the circumstances in Tippah and Benton counties where one could meet County Prosecutor Bart Adams, a Ripley attorney.
“I handle any misdemeanor crimes inside the county and also youth court,” Adams said. “That includes anyone arrested on minor assault or other misdemeanor crimes, which are ones punishable by less than one year in prison.”
The kinds of cases that come before him include simple assault, drunk driving, animal cruelty, minor drug possession charges, truancy and much more.
Though Adams’ county court doesn’t handle prosecution of felonies, most of his work is in justice court where even felony defendants make their first appearance, so Adams maintains a close working relationship with prosecuting attorneys for Circuit Court District 3. The district includes seven counties: Benton, Calhoun, Chickasaw, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah and Union.
“I handle felony cases when they’re brought to justice court and until they are bound over to the grand jury,” Adams said. “The other cases I’ve seen in justice court include anything and everything, from a no seat belt ticket to something that’s an unusual case for us, prostitution. Something that’s becoming more common is taking people’s animals, horses for neglect. And in Benton County the past couple of years, people charged with shooting a neighbor’s dog.”
The youth court cases Adams works involve children in the 13-to-17 age group who are charged with any crime, whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony, with a couple of felony exceptions. Categories of cases in youth court also include delinquency, neglect, abuse and truancy.
Adams observed that most cases across all levels of the court system seem in some way to link back to drug abuse, whether it’s DUI, child neglect, theft and so forth.
Justice court sessions are scheduled every week in Tippah County at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays, while Benton County’s justice court sessions are held twice a month on a varying schedule. Youth court in each county is held once a month, and the day also varies.
When not prosecuting county cases, the 35-year-old attorney is handling cases for his firm, Akins & Adams, P.A.
“In my private practice I handle lots of bankruptcy work, personal injury work and some criminal defense work outside of the 3rd district,” he said.
Adams is prevented by law from defending clients in the same jurisdiction where he is a prosecutor, so his criminal defense clients generally are in District 1, which includes Alcorn, Itawamba, Lee, Monroe, Pontotoc, Prentiss and Tishomingo counties.
“Before becoming a prosecutor I did more criminal defense work, but the experience as a prosecutor in invaluable,” he said. “I see the ups and downs of both sides.”
Married to Amy Hopper Adams and the father of two boys – Clay, 7 and Cole, 6 – Adams is the product of a family of law professionals.

For the rest of the story, see the March 6, 2013 issue of the Southern Sentinel

About Beth Thomas

Beth Thomas Harmon is the news editor for the Southern Sentinel. She graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2011 with a degree in journalism. Beth is a New Albany native, and she began working at the Sentinel in 2013.