Desoto County News

District Attorney Barton marks 100 days in office 

Tuesday, April 9 marked the 100th day since Matthew Barton began serving as District Attorney for the 23rd District, encompassing DeSoto County.  

In a news release, Barton’s office detailed the steps it has taken during the 100-day period in its efforts to target violent criminals.

Immediately upon taking office, Barton initiated Phase I of his Grand Jury restructuring plan.  This involved strategically assigning experienced prosecutors and support staff to Grand Jury and providing specialized training to law enforcement, leading to a more efficient system.  Since its implementation, we have been able to markedly increase the rate at which felony cases can be prosecuted, improve agency notice from 24 hours to 2 weeks, reduce the backlog of criminal cases, and ensure violent criminals are given the harshest penalties under the law.

As part of his commitment to Stop Memphis crime in DeSoto County, District Attorney Barton has worked to make an example out of those who use our state line to evade justice.  District Attorney Barton set a tone early in his first 60 days by personally trying a Memphis man who shot at a Southaven police officer during an auto burglary, resulting in a conviction and 38-year prison sentence.  This sends a clear message to Memphis criminals and those who endanger our law enforcement officers: they will not find refuge in our jurisdiction.  Offenders can expect to face the consequences of their choices, including incarceration in the challenging environment of Parchman in the hot Mississippi Delta.

In an effort to keep DeSoto County safe, District Attorney Matthew Barton, in collaboration with local and federal law enforcement, established a new Task Force dedicated to expediting the apprehension of dangerous and violent offenders indicted by the Grand Jury.  Traditionally, the process of apprehending individuals indicted under seal has been time-consuming, potentially allowing dangerous offenders to remain at large in the community. However, this Task Force will allow partners in law enforcement to streamline the legal process of prosecution and ensure these dangerous individuals are swiftly brought before the court to face the consequences of their actions.

Barton also championed a plan to help tackle the drug epidemic in our community, by collaborating with stakeholders to establish a Metro DeSoto Drug Lab.  This proposed plan aims to significantly reduce wait times from one to two years to less than three weeks, ensuring that drug charges do not expire under the statute of limitations and criminals are held accountable for their actions.  With unanimous support from the Board of Supervisors, mayors, and sheriff, Phase I of the Metro DeSoto Drug Lab is now underway. The objective is to have two forensic scientists in place by the end of summer that will yield immediate results for DeSoto County.  District Attorney Barton is humbled to collaborate and serve with other community leaders who share a commitment to prioritizing public safety.

During his campaign, Barton vowed to gain and improve the public’s trust in government and to lead with respect and integrity.  He is fulfilling this pledge by publishing a first-ever annual report for Barton’s Office.  This report will offer a comprehensive overview of departmental activities, achievements, case statistics, and additional relevant information.  The annual report covering the 2024 calendar year will be released in late 2024 on Barton’s new website. 

He also created the first-ever Public Corruption Division within the office to build trust in those who hold office and ensure the government is working for its intended purpose.  “Mississippians deserve to have confidence in those who we elect or who work in the public sector,” said Barton. “It will be my duty to ensure that confidence is maintained and those who use their position of power for public gain are scrutinized and held accountable to taxpayers.” 

Weak prosecutorial standards such as what we see in Memphis are a dangerous trend where criminals are given free rein to terrorize communities with little consequence.  This liberal ideology is turning cities like Memphis into a haven for lawlessness, eroding the safety and well-being of its residents and neighboring communities like ours. Barton has made it known that he will not succumb to this trend.  In keeping with his statutory duty to keep us safe, he has advocated for the state’s position regarding bail for violent criminals.  He ensures bail conditions are set or withheld appropriately, in strict adherence to the law, ensuring that these offenders are not released onto our streets to recommit another crime. 

Barton also took steps on day one to stabilize a neglected office.  During the transition period, DA Barton, with the help of personnel, reviewed historical data regarding their duties, pinpointed areas of focus, inherited issues, and outlined agency goals and objectives.  Equipped with this insight, Barton meticulously analyzed the leadership framework of the organization and identified the talents of team members to better serve our community. “With just a few months under my belt, it’s evident that this organization is comprised of exceptional individuals who are dedicated to the pursuit of justice and keeping DeSoto County safe,” said Barton.  “Their dedication to excellence and public service is remarkable, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of such a team.”

In part of his commitment to help equip the next generation of Mississippi’s leaders with the skills to be successful, Barton created a Youth Advisory Council – another first for the District Attorney’s Office.  This council is composed of students from across the county who will have the opportunity to learn more about the justice system and provide insight to leaders about the pressures facing youth today. 

Further, Barton said he understands the important role community programs play in the fight against crime and the support of its victims.  That is why, early this year, District Attorney Barton partnered with staff at Healing Hearts Youth Advocacy and Mississippians Against Human Trafficking.  Besides providing an avenue for information sharing between agencies, it will serve as resources for victims and lead to more successful prosecutions.  

During the first 100 days of his administration, Barton’s office has worked over 900 felony charges, accelerated the pace of prosecution in DeSoto County, forged relationships with partners in law enforcement and community stakeholders, and reduced the number of pending cases and backlogs.  These efforts underscore the steadfast commitment towards justice and public safety in DeSoto County.