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Drug convictions overturned after appeals court rules 'Santa Muerte' expert tainted case

Two Oklahoma residents have had their federal firearms and drug-trafficking convictions in New Mexico overturned thanks to a skeleton saint known as La Santa Muerte.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday a Santa Muerte expert tainted the convictions of 53-year-old Rafael Goxcon-Chagal and 38-year-old Maria Vianey Medina-Copete. Both were convicted in August 2012 for trafficking methamphetamine.

Authorities say a Santa Muerte prayer card was found with the couple during a traffic stop that led to their 2011 arrests.

Prosecutors used the expert during their trial to discuss the use of Santa Muerte, which translates to "Saint Death" in English, among drug traffickers.

Popular in Mexico, and sometimes linked to the illicit drug trade, Santa Muerte is folk saint also worshipped by some immigrant small business owners, gay activists and the poor.

The appeals court ordered a new trial for the couple.

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