By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Many gathered in the chancery courtroom of the Pearl River County Courthouse annex on Friday to wish retiring Assistant District Attorney Manya Creel Bryan well in her next endeavor, which will be in the private practice of law.
After her formal retirement from the district attorney’s office on April 30, Bryan will join local law firm of McDonald and Patch. She will start there in August where she will work on criminal defense cases, domestic cases and chancery court cases. Bryan believes her time with the district attorney’s office will help her do well as a defense attorney.
“This is a big day, especially for Manya. We hate to see her go,” District Attorney Hal Kittrell said at Friday’s event.
The room was filled with Bryan’s friends, family, law enforcement personnel from local agencies, a Mississippi Highway Patrol representative, local attorneys and local judges.
After graduating from Picayune Memorial High School in 1974, she earned her bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in English and secondary education from the University of Southern Mississippi, in 1979. She taught English in the Pearl River County School District for a year before working as a paralegal. She then attended law school at the University of Mississippi, graduating with a Juris Doctor degree in 1990.
Upon completion of her law degree, she worked as a law clerk for the Mississippi Supreme Court. In 1992, Bryan joined the District Attorney’s Office in the 15th Circuit Court District as an ADA where she prosecuted drug cases. Three years later she practiced law in Picayune with the Creel and Howell law firm. That same year she was appointed by Judge R.I. Pritchard, III, as a part time public defender in Pearl River County.
In 2000 she returned to the district attorney’s office. In her 17 years with the district attorney’s office she has prosecuted approximately 95 cases ranging from drug offenses to capital murders, none of which have been reversed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals or by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
“She’s done a great job on everything she’s done,” said local attorney Buddy McDonald. “I know you’re going to do a great job with us.”
Bryan was described by Kittrell at the event as a hard worker whose aggressive style makes her a contender in the court room.
“The last thing we want to do is try a case against her,” Kittrell said.
Bryan took a moment during the event to share some of the most memorable cases she prosecuted during her time with the district attorney’s office, including the John Boy Frierson case that involved the death of four members of his family at his hands. Bryan said that case was tried during her first week on the job. The most memorable case she personally prosecuted was the 2006 Robert Grant murder case that involved a robbery at a county home and ended in his accomplice’s death. Bryan said the most heinous case was the Ashley Andrews’ murder case where the child died at the hands of her mother and step-father a short time after Hurricane Katrina.
She also remembered watching Judge Pritchard and McDonald in action in the courtroom, and how their work impressed her.
“It was so exciting, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Bryan said.
The former ADA also took a moment to express her appreciation for the support of local law enforcement officials and their hard work. Bryan described local law enforcement as intelligent and hard working. Their efforts and the residents of the county create a safe place in which to live, she said. While there are drug and property crimes in Pearl River County, there are very few violent crimes, a fact Bryan attributes the combination of law enforcement and county residents.
“I feel safe here because of y’all,” Bryan said.