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Prosecutors seek to reinstate first-degree murder charge against Riley's

BROCKTON - Prosecutors are appealing a judge’s decision to reduce the charges in the case of a South Shore couple accused of murdering their 4-year-old daughter by overdosing her with prescription drugs.

Earlier this year, a grand jury indicted Carolyn and Michael Riley on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of their daughter, Rebecca.

An autopsy report found that Rebecca had died of an overdose of drugs she had been prescribed for bipolar disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. She also had been given cough medicine the day before she died. Prosecutors said the Rileys deliberately overdosed Rebecca.

The little girl died a year ago in Hull.

Last week, Plymouth Superior Court Judge John P. O’Connor reduced the charges to second-degree murder, saying evidence presented to the grand jury did not meet the threshold for a first-degree murder charge.

Prosecutor Frank Middleton has appealed the decision, with a request that the appeal be expedited.

Michael Ricciuti of Milton, co-chairman of the Boston Bar Association’s criminal law section, said it is unusual for a prosecutor to file an appeal during a case, but O’Connor’s decision to reduce charges prior to trial is also unusual.

“If a judge has thrown out a charge, which is really unusual, you might file an appeal,” he said. “That shows the government is really serious about first-degree.”

The next hearing in the case is on Tuesday.

Julie Jette may be reached at jjette@ledger.com.