ABERDEEN – When district prosecutors forced Michael and Marie Salts of Booneville to trial in 2005, they did so knowing the funeral home owners had only one lawyer.
That situation, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis said Thursday, created an impossible situation – an actual conflict of interest – for their attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo.
The Saltses’ October 2005 embezzlement convictions “should be vacated” and a new prosecution or trial for them provided within 120 days, Davis wrote in a report responding to appeals filed for the couple by Waide.
The Saltses were jointly indicted in Prentiss County in May 2003 on six counts of embezzlement. The charges allege that over 17 years, they embezzled thousands of dollars from six named individuals.
In October 2005, they were convicted on three counts of felony embezzlement and one count of misdemeanor embezzlement counts – and sentenced to five years in prison and fines.
Just before the trial, their original attorney withdrew because of a conflict of interest. Their second attorney received several delays, and ultimately their second attorney was deemed not prepared for trial on Sept. 29, 2005.
But the court insisted they move ahead, despite the few days of preparation for their third attorney, Waide.
Davis wrote that it was impossible for Waide to represent both of them at the same time because of different evidence and circumstances surrounding each defendant, sometimes to the other’s detriment.
• Read more details in Friday’s Daily Journal.
Patsy R. Brumfield/Daily Journal