- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that police and sex-abuse counselors did not improperly manipulate a jury’s determination of the credibility of two victims of child sex abuse.

Santos Cuevas was convicted of a host of sex-abuse charges in Eastern Oregon’s Malheur County, and appealed his conviction in January.

At his trial, Cuevas‘ attorney argued that a detective’s investigation was inadequate because the detective relied on videotaped interviews of the two young girls for evidence. The girls were identified only as “S” and “K.”

Prosecutors then showed the jury those interviews, and assured jurors that the girls’ testimony was enough evidence.

“In particular, (the detective) testified that police had relied almost exclusively on the (video) interviews and had not done follow-up interviews with ‘S’ or ‘K,’ their mother, defendant, or other family members,” wrote appeals court judge Chris Garrett in the ruling handed down this week.

In the end of that trial, a prosecutor conducting closing arguments told the jury “you saw the interviews, you saw the demeanor of the girls… (the detective) had more than enough,” the ruling said.

That, said Cuevas‘ attorney, was enough to prejudice the jury. Cuevas‘ attorney also protested some of the background questions asked of the girls in the video interviews, including those about their school, pets, and hobbies.

Such questions, the attorney argued, improperly endeared the girls to the jury, and made their testimony more credible.

The girls also made allegations of other crimes for which Cuevas wasn’t charged, including “S,” who said Cuevas would blow methamphetamine smoke into her mouth. Relating such uncharged offenses to the jury, Cuevas‘ attorney argued, was similarly prejudicial.

But the appeals court disagreed on all accounts, denying Cuevas‘ assertion that such assurances unfairly vouched for the girls’ credibility or that the jury was unfairly prejudiced by the prosecutor’s closing statement.

Cuevas‘ conviction on three counts of first-degree sodomy, five counts of first-degree sex abuse and related charges stands, as does his sentence of approximately 45 years.

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Reach reporter Nigel Duara at https://www.twitter.com/nigelduara .


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