Each month the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office highlights one of our standout prosecutors. This month, we would like to introduce you to Assistant District Attorney Johana Bucci. Johana’s journey with our office started when she interned for us in 2012. She was hired on full-time in 2016 and is currently a Circuit Court prosecutor. Outside of the office she enjoys traveling with her husband, hiking, cooking, getting together with friends, spending time with her “Little” in Big Brothers Big Sisters, boating, fishing, and watching sunsets on her back porch. She also serves our community by volunteering with various civic organizations such as the Fuse Project, the Mobile Young Lawyers Association, and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Where are you from?
My roots are strong in Mobile as my grandparents retired to Mobile in the 70s. I was born in Mobile but grew up in Pascagoula, Mississippi. My immediate family moved to Mobile after Hurricane Katrina when I was a senior in high school.
What is your favorite thing about living on the Gulf Coast?
My favorite thing about living on the Gulf Coast is definitely the fresh seafood. I especially love crawfish! I live for crawfish season!
Do you have any hobbies?
Since quarantine, my Peloton bike has become my favorite hobby. I also started journaling as a way to reflect on my day and record special memories.
Tell us about your family and pets?
I am married to the most wonderful man and while we do not have children yet, we hope to have a family of our own very soon. For now, our two crazy (and spoiled) cats, Veda (6 yr. old Bengal) and River (1.5 yr. old Tonkinese) are our “children.”
What is the most important thing in your life?
Family. We lost my father in 2020, and the loss has taught me to cherish every moment we have with our loved ones. You cannot take a single visit or phone call with a loved one for granted because it may be the last.
Has there been anyone who has influenced you personally or professionally?
My father was a huge influence on me growing up, and his spirit continues to live on through me today. He was a simple but genuine man. By example, he taught me to be humble, generous, and grateful for every blessing, no matter how trivial. He was very supportive of all of my activities and decisions as a young adult, including my choice of career. As an emergency room doctor for over 30 years, he sparked the desire in me to help others. From him, I also learned how to treat all people equally. After he passed, I was overwhelmed with the stories and memories shared by his co-workers and staff, some I had never even met. They shared with me stories and memories of not only his talent as a physician but of his generosity and modesty as a person. His patients loved him because he was easy to talk to and he could make anyone feel at ease. One story about him that I will never forget was the time he literally gave the shoes off of his feet to a homeless patient so that the hospital would permit his entry. He knew and greeted everyone with a smile, no matter their rank or title. He saw his patients and all those he came across as people, never applying stereotypes. I strive to give the same care he gave his patients to the victims of our community I have the honor of representing and serving. They often just need and deserve someone to talk to about what happened to them, someone to provide the assistance they cannot provide themselves. I love the example my dad was for me, and I hope to never forget it.
Why did you choose to become a prosecutor for MCDA?
My initial interest in becoming a prosecutor was for the experience in the courtroom. I love being in court and advocating in front of a jury. However, my decision to continue my career as a prosecutor is for the victims and community I represent. I love coming to work knowing that I am protecting their rights and making an impact in someone’s life in a positive way, every, single day.
What motivates you to come to work each day?
My co-workers motivate me. I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by a team of brilliant prosecutors and support staff. They are family to me. What drives me to work hard are the victims we serve. I love being able to advocate for victim’s rights and helping them obtain closure to difficult times/events.
What is the most difficult or stressful thing about your job?
One of the most difficult aspects of being a prosecutor is witnessing the same people continue to be a part of our criminal justice system. Whether the cause can be traced to drug addiction, lack of guidance, mentorship, or family support, it is increasingly disheartening and difficult to see the same people, especially young adults, over and over as a result of choosing a life of violence and crime. Oftentimes, decisions to lead this type of life can affect future generations of the same family, resulting in them also circulate through the criminal justice system after making the same choices. It is heartbreaking, and we must continue to help show that there are other, better choices available to them.
Do you have any advice for someone seeking a career within the criminal justice system?
My advice to someone interested in a legal career in criminal justice would be to get involved. Volunteer with us or just come observe us at the courthouse. Get to know the people and their responsibilities at MCDA. There are many opportunities to witness and gain real courtroom experience that you typically will not have in school. Show up and have a willingness to learn and work hard. You may find that this career is not for you, which in and of itself is just as valuable as confirming that it is.
Is there a particular benchmark or goal in your life that you are proud of accomplishing?
Without a doubt, the experience and success I have gained early on in my career is something I am very proud of. In a relatively short time as a prosecutor, I have obtained significant experience trying cases on my own but have also had the honor of assisting my peers and mentors that I look up to, including 3 successful capital murder jury trials with ADA Jennifer Wright, Chief Asst. DA Keith Blackwood, and even the District Attorney herself, Ashley Rich. Words cannot sufficiently describe the emotions that a trial attorney feels when trying a capital murder case but I am extremely grateful and blessed that these amazing prosecutors gave me these opportunities and taught me so much in the process. I have also known the importance of a mentor, and I am blessed to have these attorneys in my work life.
If you could pick one thing to change within our legal system what would it be?
Funding and our mental health system. Everyone seemingly agrees that justice should be served for victims, crime should be punished, and criminals reformed, but the funding and resources necessary to achieve maximum efficiency and results are not always allocated accordingly. Our Circuit annually handles more or near the greatest number of cases than any other in the State, yet resources are not allocated correspondingly. Additionally, almost every day, I interact with people that are battling mental health issues, including those that find themselves charged with serious crimes and facing long periods of incarceration. I predict that if they could have access to and receive the correct treatment, the likelihood of them committing the crimes often charged could potentially be avoided.