Hicks, Mitchell join SAO as prosecutors

State Attorney Larry Basford and Keria Hicks
State Attorney Larry Basford and Jake Mitchell

The 14th Judicial Circuit has two new Assistant State Attorneys.

Keria Hicks and Jake Mitchell, who were notified last week they passed the Florida Bar exam, have been sworn in as prosecutors by State Attorney Larry Basford.

Hicks and Mitchell did not have to travel far for the ceremony, both were already employed at the State Attorney’s Office since last Fall.


Hicks began working at the SAO in Panama City last August as a Paralegal Specialist. She will be handling misdemeanor offenses in Bay County.

She grew up in a small Mississippi town but always had her eyes on becoming an attorney or a journalist. She completed four grades of high school in three years, then went to the University of Mississippi where she took only three years to earn her four-year degree. While in high school and college she also devoted 400 hours to Americorps and took an internship with the state’s U.S. representative.

Keria Hicks with Circuit Judge Devin Collier (right) and her husband Lamont Henderson.

At the beginning of her third year of law school at University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, she was offered a job as a prosecutor at a different judicial circuit in Florida.

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“Then I met someone who had worked both in this circuit and the circuit where I had the job offer, and after reading my resume she told me she thought I’d like Panama City a lot more,” she said, adding that an interview was set up. “In the interview, Mr. Basford asked me about my family and that’s something no one else had done. At the time I was a new mother and that meant a lot to me.

“My husband thought I was making this place up but when we flew down and met everyone and saw the area, he was like, ‘I get it, I totally get it.’”

Hicks believes that as a prosecutor she can help make the community a better place to live.

“If there’s anything that identifies my life, it’s that I’m trying to be the change I want to see in the world,” she said.

Mitchell joined the SAO’s Marianna Office in August as a Paralegal Specialist and will temporarily handle misdemeanors in Bay County before shifting back to Jackson County.

Mitchell is returning to his roots as a Marianna High School graduate who went on to attend both Chipola College and Florida State University, where he graduated with a B.S. in Criminology. He received his law degree from the Jones School of Law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala. He worked as an assistant at the Montgomery County, Ala., District Attorney’s Office, and was a legal intern for County Judge Wade Mercer in Marianna.

Circuit Court Judge Ana Maria Garcia swears in new Prosecutor Jake Mitchell.

His inspiration to practice law, he said, came from his grandmother.

“My grandma always had a dream of me and my brother opening our own law firm together,” he said. “I stuck with my end of the deal and my brother decided to go to medical school.

“Even though the chance of ‘Mitchell and Mitchell’ law firm is gone, I know my grandmother and grandfather are looking down and smiling.”

Mitchell’s grandmother lived long enough to see him graduate from law school.

Mitchell worked and lived in Alabama for about two years working both in private and state practice when he heard about an opening that would bring him home. He took it.

“Justice is a universal concept, but I like being on this side of the law,” he said. “We, as prosecutors, are here to be fair but firm. It creates a great responsibility to the community in helping to keep it safe while treating everyone fairly and respectfully.”

For more information, contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@sa14.fl.gov, or call 850-381-7454.