SALT LAKE CITY — A portion of convicted child killer Esar Met’s sentence has been overturned by the Utah Supreme Court.
In a ruling handed down late Tuesday night, the state’s top court ruled that a lower court judge “erroneously treated life without parole as the presumptive sentence for Met’s aggravated murder conviction.” The court remanded the case back to the judge for clarification or resentencing.
It’s not likely to change the outcome. Met is already serving a separate life without parole sentence for child kidnapping. The Utah Supreme Court justices also rejected what it termed a “panoply of issues on appeal.”
Met is serving life without parole in the 2008 slaying of 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo, a Burmese refugee who was living with her family in a South Salt Lake apartment complex. Prosecutors said the girl’s body was found in Met’s basement, severely beaten.
At trial (and in appeal) Met challenged a number of issues, including the use of gruesome crime scene photographs and the original interview he gave to police. He also challenged the sentencing handed down by Judge Judith Atherton. On that point, Utah Supreme Court Justice John Pearce said they would ask the original sentencing judge to decide whether an incorrect statement changes the overall sentence.
“If the original sentencing judge concludes that it did, then the court must vacate the aggravated murder sentence and resentence Met on that conviction. If the original sentencing judge is unavailable or otherwise unable to consider the remanded issue, then the newly sitting judge must vacate the sentence and resentence solely on the aggravated murder conviction,” Justice Pearce wrote.
The court still upheld Met’s murder and kidnapping convictions.