Shelby County can't defend accused in cemetery fraud case

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Shelby County's public defender says his office doesn't have the resources to represent a man accused of embezzling millions from funeral home businesses in Memphis and Michigan.

Last summer public outrage followed the announcement by Clayton Smart that he would not honor more than 13-thousand prepaid funeral policies.

Smart said in a court hearing yesterday that he does not have the money to hire an attorney. But prosecutors say they did not believe Smart is broke.

The public defender suggested the judge appoint a private attorney for Smart.

But court officials said the 3-thousand-dollar fee allowed is not enough and there is no mechanism in court rules to allow the judge to ask for more money.

In the end the judge told prosecutors to show him evidence that Smart has the money to hire an attorney.

He told Smart to ask the Chancery Court to release some of his frozen assets to use for his defense. The hearing continues Wednesday.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)