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Updated: 1:38 PM- The man accused in the rape, beating and slaying of a 7-year-old girl had his first court appearance Thursday.
Esar Met appeared before 3rd District Judge Judith Atherton via closed-circuit television from the Salt Lake County jail. During the 10-minute hearing the judge read the charges and questioned Esar Met's understanding of them through an interpreter.
Esar Met said little but repeatedly nodded in affirmation. The 21-year-old Burmese refugee is accused in the March 31 slaying of Hser Ner Moo at a South Salt Lake apartment complex where they both lived.
Finding the defendant unable to hire his own defense attorney, the judge appointed tax-payer funded attorney Michael Peterson to represent him.
When asked by Atherton if he was an American citizen, Esar Met replied: "No, not yet."
The judge then asked if the defendant would like to exercise his right to have information about his case relayed to the consular office of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Esar Met said he did want his consul notified.
The Vienna Convention requires United States authorities to tell an arrested foreign national that he may have his nation's consul informed of the arrest. Consular notification became an appeal issue several years ago in connection with a Uruguayan national convicted of a 1996 double shooting that resulted in one death.
Peterson wanted to know if the interpreter, who was at the jail with Esar Met, was speaking Burmese - and also if the interpreter he had been involved in any prior police interviews with witnesses in the case.
The interpreter, Maung Maung, said he was speaking Burmese to the defendant, and that he had, indeed, participated in the interview of one of Esar Met's roommates. Maung Maung also said he had interpreted for a victim family member and a neighbor, but had not helped with any prior interviews of the defendant.
Peterson then asked the court to try to find an interpreter unrelated to the case.
As the hearing came to an end, Esar Met wanted to know who the attorney was in the courtroom. Peterson replied, "Remind him we met twice in the jail."
Esar Met is charged with aggravated murder, which carries the potential of the death penalty, and with child kidnapping, a first-degree felony. The sexual assault of Hser Ner Moo was used as an aggravating factor of the murder charge.
His next court appearance will be an April 21 scheduling hearing before Judge William Barrett.
Both Esar Met and Hser Ner Moo and come to the U.S. from the same Burmese refugee camp in Thailand.