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Refugee appeals conviction in 7-year-old girl’s death

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Posted at 3:03 PM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-02 00:07:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Supreme Court is considering an appeal by a Burmese refugee convicted of murdering a 7-year-old girl.

Esar Met was convicted in the 2008 murder of Hser Ner Moo, a refugee girl who lived in the same South Salt Lake apartment complex. Prosecutors said he lured her from a playground, sexually assaulted her and then beat her to death. Met is currently serving life without parole.

"Life without parole is perhaps in some ways worse than a death penalty," his attorney, Herschel Bullen, argued. "In that you're completely hopeless."

Esar Met listens to his interpreter at his preliminary hearing in Judge William Barrett's 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Esar Met is accused of killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008. (Courtroom pool photo)

Esar Met listens to his interpreter at his preliminary hearing in Judge William Barrett's 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Esar Met is accused of killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo in 2008. (Courtroom pool photo)

Met's attorney argued before the state's top court on Friday that a jury should have sentenced him instead of a judge, there were problems with his interrogation by police and a translator (whom he said was unqualified and badgered Met), and prosecutors showed the jury gruesome photos of the girl's body. The Utah Attorney General's Office insisted Met got a fair trial.

Utah Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical of Met's claims.

"He's admitted being involved in the death of a child," Justice Deno Himonas said.

"Yeah," Bullen conceded. "I think nevertheless, he was being badgered by the translator and misunderstood what was going on."

"But the point is, he's already admitted," Himonas replied.

Justice Thomas Lee pointed out that the judge has the authority to sentence someone to prison, especially if the death penalty is off the table.

Hser Ner Moo. (Submitted photo)

Hser Ner Moo. (Submitted photo)

The Utah Supreme Court took the case under advisement and a ruling is not expected for a few months. Bullen told FOX 13 outside of court he would like to see a new trial for Met.

"He did get a fair trial," assistant Utah attorney general John Nielsen said.

As she left the courtroom, Pearlly Wah, Hser Ner Moo's mother, hugged lawyers who worked on her daughter's murder case. She told FOX 13 she was pleased with the state's arguments.

"I say thank you to my attorney, policemen, thank you to everybody," she said. "Thank you so much. God bless America."