updated 6/15/2009 8:00:40 PM ET 2009-06-16T00:00:40

A judge on Monday denied a defense motion to exclude photographs of the body of a 15-month-old child who died after her parents prayed rather than seeking medical attention for her.

Clackamas County Circuit Judge Steven Maurer told defense attorneys for Carl and Raylene Worthington that it would be up to a jury to decide the value of the photographs.

The Oregon City couple, who belong to the Followers of Christ Church, faces manslaughter charges in the death of their daughter, Ava. Members of the church have a history of treating gravely ill children only with prayer.

Ava died of pneumonia in March 2008. A state medical examiner has said she could have been treated with antibiotics.

Defense attorneys argued that the photos of Ava's body were so disturbing that they could prejudice the jury.

But Maurer ruled that their context could be explained by expert witnesses and that crime scene and autopsy photos are often disturbing but commonly accepted as evidence.

Defense attorneys were also expected to argue that the couple was targeted by police during the investigation when similar cases that didn't involve members of their church were not.

Jury selection was expected to begin later this week. The trial was scheduled to start June 23.

If convicted on the manslaughter charges, the couple faces up to 10 years in prison.

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