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Appeals court overturns Salem woman's conviction in daughter's death

FILE

The Oregon Court of Appeals overturned a Salem woman’s manslaughter conviction Wednesday after it concluded a trial court erred when it introduced video evidence against the woman.

Mercedes Celeste Alvarado was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in the April 2013 death of her 3-year-old daughter and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Her live-in boyfriend, David Gene Elliot, pleaded guilty in September 2016 to murder by abuse and two counts of assault. He admitting hitting the girl in the abdomen and, according to court records, the girl was found face down in the bathtub.

Officials said Alvarado was in another room wearing noise-canceling headphones when the girl died.

Elliot was sentenced to life in prison.

At issue in Alvarado’s case was a video introduced during the trial that showed her and Elliot with the children. In the video Elliot prompts the children to use racial slurs. The state used the video to argue that Alvarado knew about the abuse.

While the appeals court found that the video "satisfies the minimal standard for relevance," it concluded the trial court failed to properly assess whether the video would unfairly prejudice the jury against her. The court also found the "error was not harmless."

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