John K. Bramlett Jr. was recently appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant as District Attorney for the 20th Circuit Court District, which includes Madison and Rankin counties. He replaces Michael Guest, who was elected to the U.S. Congress. Bramlett has served as an assistant district attorney in the 20th Circuit Court District since 2015. The Madison resident holds a bachelor of science in business administration from the University of Mississippi and a juris doctorate from the Mississippi College School of Law. Bramlett recently spoke with Sun staff reporter Nikki Rowell about his appointment as district attorney.
When does your term begin?
“On December 17, 2018, I received a call from Gov. Phil Bryant appointing me to replace Michael Guest in the final year of his term as district attorney of Madison and Rankin counties due to Michael’s recent election to Congress. It was my honor to accept this appointment from the governor, and I am blessed daily as I now serve as district attorney of our two great counties. My appointment was effective January 1, I was sworn in the morning of January 2, and I officially qualified for the 2019 election that same morning.”
Tell me about your professional background and what qualifies you to serve in this role.
“Since graduation from Mississippi College School of Law in 1988, I have served in multiple areas of law. Elected as the county attorney of Rankin County in 1991, 1995 and 1999, I served as both the county prosecutor wherein I prosecuted all misdemeanor crimes within the county in Justice, County and Circuit courts, and the Youth Court Prosecutor wherein I prosecuted all cases in Youth Court.
It was during my third term, in 2000, that I agreed to become our district’s first Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Children for Madison and Rankin counties for four years, prosecuting felony abuse, sex and death crimes wherein the victim was a child. Upon completion of that experience, which was most rewarding, I enjoyed a successful private practice offering counsel and representing clients in civil and criminal cases throughout our district, and also served as a municipal judge in Pelahatchie and as Judge Pro Tem in Florence.
In 2015, I accepted Mr. Guest’s offer to become assistant district attorney primarily prosecuting murder, aggravated assault, domestic violence, kidnapping, DUI death and drug trafficking crimes in Madison County. Throughout my career I have handled thousands of criminal prosecutions, many at the highest level. For example, in 2003 I was the lead prosecutor in the last successful death penalty prosecution in Rankin County, and in 2018 I was on the prosecution team in the last successful death penalty case in Madison County...the only two such cases in this district since the 1990s.”
What are the top priorities you intend to tackle as district attorney?
“My top priorities are to do justice and to protect the citizens of Madison and Rankin counties, to make sure they live, worship and raise their families in the safest district in the state. We are blessed to be at a level right now that we may have never been before with the leadership at our local, state and federal levels. My relationship with those leaders, along with open communication and mutual cooperation between our offices, will lend a precedented strength to our common war against crime. No one can or should fight those battles, whether it’s illegal drugs, guns or otherwise, alone. Working together and allocating our resources toward the common goal will make sure that justice is served and our citizens are safe.”
What does your role entail? What will your day-to-day look like?
“My role is to serve as the chief prosecutor for Madison and Rankin counties, representing the state for cases arising under laws created by our state legislature. No two days are alike. We work daily with our members of law enforcement, whether it be in a advisory role, providing various resources, taking in their cases, preparing for grand jury or trial, or trying cases. I manage a large staff consisting of the best assistant district attorneys in the state. I interact daily with community and state leaders and representatives and the judiciary to ensure we operate at the highest level, while efficiently doing justice on a case-by-case basis. While days are long and varied, they are extremely rewarding.”
Why did you decide to go to work at the district attorney’s office in 2015?
“In 2015, my wife Celeste accepted an offer to become the assistant athletic director at Madison Central High School. Celeste and I were both uniquely qualified for these most important positions. We believe that all leaders are appointed by God (Romans 13:1) and that God has placed us exactly where we are today so that we can serve these two great counties, both of which we are fortunate to call home.”
What types of crimes do you see more of in this district?
“The two categories of crimes we deal with are violent and non-violent. The violent offenders and traffickers, whether drug or sex, need to be in prison for the protection of our citizens. The hard work and dedication of our law enforcement, which is outstanding in both Madison and Rankin, coupled with the commitment and ability of our office to obtain strong and appropriate sentences in a timely manner ensure not only that our citizens are protected, but that criminals are held accountable for their crimes.
Fortunately, the non-violent crimes substantially outnumber the violent crimes in both Madison and Rankin counties. A common denominator throughout a significant number of our cases involve illegal use of drugs. While a particular case may not directly involve a drug crime, we often find the use of illegal drugs to be a significant factor or contributor in the crime. Within this latter group of crimes there exists a group of criminals that need to go to prison. There also exists a category of low-risk people who can be alternatively sentenced, through our drug court for instance, and return to society as productive citizens. Accurately identifying those individuals that can be rehabilitated, and affording them the benefits of our mental health and drug and alcohol programs, such as Drug Court, pretrial diversion or trustee programs, benefits everyone.”
What are your main goals moving forward?
“My goal, quite simply, is to be the best district attorney’s office in the State of Mississippi. Our citizens deserve nothing less. We are staffed, equipped and resourced to do that. Our relationship with our current leadership and law enforcement within Madison and Rankin counties, and at the state and federal levels, will enable us to make sure our homes remain the safest and best place to live, work, worship and raise a family and our businesses remain the safest to work.”