District Court Division
P. Marc Sandlin, Chief Deputy District Attorney
Burton Walker, Assistant District Attorney
Shea Keller, Assistant District Attorney
Ben McDaniel, Assistant District Attorney
Sara Judah, Assistant District Attorney
Juvenile Crime Unit
Josh Ballinger, Assistant District Attorney
Child Support Unit
Steve Shaw, Assistant District Attorney
Kristy Shelton, Assistant District Attorney
Shenia Williams, Legal Secretary
Tina Anderton, Legal Assistant
Megan Fears, Clerk
Hannah King, Clerk
Ashley Stevens, Clerk
Breanna Bowden, Clerk
Preliminary Hearings are held in District Court before the four District Court Judges: Don Rizzardi, Patty Demos, Patrick Tuten, and Linda Coats . These hearings are held in felony cases at the request of the defendant to determine"probable cause." This hearing is held when the case has not yet been presented to the Madison County grand jury. If the grand jury hears the case and finds probable cause before the preliminary hearing can be scheduled, the defendant is not entitled to the preliminary hearing.
The preliminary hearing gives the defendant and his or her attorney an opportunity to hear a portion of the evidence the state has against the defendant in the case, and can have a bearing on how the defense is prepared. Last year, defense attorneys made an agreement with the District Attorney's Office to waive preliminary hearings when possible and when all "discovery," or evidence pertaining to the case, had been delivered to the defendant's attorney. This reduces the number of preliminary hearings required and provides the defendant with the information desired.
Misdemeanor cases are crimes where the punishment is one year or less. Examples of misdemeanors are: theft in the third degree (elements of theft 3rd are: property taken must not exceed $500 in value and which is not taken from the person of another), harassment, assault in
the third degree (elements of assault in the third degree are: intent to cause physical injury, recklessly causes physical injury to another person by means of deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, and/or with intent to prevent a peace officer from performing a lawful duty, causes physical injury to any person), criminal trespassing, criminal non-support, and issuing worthless checks.
Our office prosecutes cases made by the Madison County Sheriff's Department and the Alabama State Troopers. District Court cases are divided among the three District Court Judges by the defendant's last name, as listed below.
A-D Judge Patrick Tuten - Asst. District Attorney Sara Judah
E-K Judge Patty Demos - Asst. District Attorney Burton Walker
L-Ri Judge Linda Coats - Asst. District Attorney Ben McDaniel
Ro-Z Judge Don Rizzardi - Asst. District Attorney Shea Keller
Former District Attorney Tim Morgan knew when he took office that the rise in juvenile crime in Madison County was a priority to be addressed. Assistant District Attorney Melissa Heron was hired to devote full-time effort to the problem. In addition to providing more consistent, firm treatment toward juvenile acts of violence, Mrs. Heron worked with Morgan to take a more pro-active stance in relating to the problems of young people. More time is now spent in class rooms in city and county schools than at any previous time, talking about gangs, guns, violence and penalties.
A pilot third grade program is showing young students that they have choices to make in their environment: that the right friends can help them avoid trouble- and choosing not to have weapons or violence can save lives. The G.I.V.E. program was recently awarded a grant that will provide supplies such as crayons, coloring books and visuals for every third grader, first in the pilot program, and eventually in every classroom in Madison County.
The Juvenile Unit currently consists of one lawyer, an Administrative Assistant, and a secretary/support staffer, some of whom are paid through grant awards.