By The Associated Press
JACKSON — A federal appeals panel has ordered a new trial for Michael and Marie Salts on state charges of embezzlement.
In a 2-1 order released Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a Mississippi trial judge erred when he didn’t consider a request by the Salts to be represented by their own attorney.
The Salts were convicted in 2005 in Lee County of three counts each of felony embezzlement and one count each of misdemeanor embezzlement. They were each sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors said the Salts kept burial insurance premiums mailed to them by people to pass on to the insurance company.
The week before trial, the Salts fired their attorney citing a lack of preparation for trial. They hired Jim Waide of Tupelo four days before their trial started.
After reviewing the case files, Waide made a motion before the court to have each one represented by a different attorney because of conflicts of interest.
The judge denied the request and the trial proceeded.
The 5th Circuit panel gave the state 120 days to begin a new prosecution.