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Juror reflects on convicting Esar Met of child’s murder

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Hser Ner Moo

By Marissa Lang

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jan 25 2014 01:01AM
Updated Jan 25, 2014 04:22PM

It’s been one week since Chase Andrizzi voted to convict a man of murder.

It’s something he tries not to think about as he returns to work, to playing with his daughter, to living his life.

But it’s there, Adrizzi told The Tribune on Friday, it always will be.

"It was hard to process a lot of the evidence, hard to look at or think about," he said. "But still being comfortable with the decision we made is by far the hardest part. When you think about the weight of that choice, you definitely want to make sure you feel you made the right call."

After two weeks of listening to experts, grieving family members and law enforcement officers, the 26-year-old man said he’s confident he and his seven fellow jurors made the right decision in finding Esar Met guilty of child kidnapping and aggravated murder.

It took the three men and five women of the 3rd District Court jury about five hours to reach their verdict.

Met, 27, could spend the rest of his life in prison for kidnapping, sexually and physically assaulting and killing 7-year-old Hser Ner Moo.

"That was the hardest thing for me: If he’s innocent, then we come down with a guilty verdict and we send an innocent man to prison for the rest of his life or we come down with a not guilty verdict and he goes free. If he’s guilty and we come down with a guilty verdict that’d be the right thing to do, but if he’s guilty and we find him not guilty, we set a murderer loose," Andrizzi said. "It’s pretty tough. You can only make one right choice. That doesn’t make it easy."

Prosecutors told jurors that Met was a killer who lured the child into his basement apartment on March 31, 2008.

Gruesome crime scene photos showed the child bloodied and broken. Met did this, prosecutors said, in less than an hour, before he boarded a bus and fled to the home of his aunt and uncle.

The defense claimed Met cared for the girl, that he taught her to ride her bike and made her snacks. He would play tag with her and a friend and give the girls "elephant rides" on his back to the children’s delight.

Defense attorneys told the jury Met would never harm the girl and they strung together a theory that implicated Met’s four roommates, who shared the apartment but did not associate with Met because they were from different ethnic backgrounds.

This alternate theory — that Met’s roommates could have been responsible for the child’s disappearance and death — seemed unlikely to several members of the jury, Andrizzi said.

"It was a pretty long stretch," Andrizzi said. "It just didn’t seem reasonable. But up until the DNA evidence [was presented by prosecutors], it seemed like it could have gone either way. It would have been really hard to say this was one of the roommates versus anyone else who lived there."

In an initial poll, taken in the first hour of deliberation, the jury was split nearly in half, Andrizzi said.

Four were ready to convict Met as charged, at that point. The others weren’t so sure.

There were a lot of questions, Andrizzi said, a lot of what-ifs.

Ultimately, it was the forensic evidence that swayed them.

DNA evidence collected from beneath the child’s fingernails matched a genetic profile shared by the defendant. Prosecutors said she retained these skin cells in a struggle for her life as Met beat her to death.

On the back of Met’s denim jacket, four blood spots proved to be Hser Ner Moo’s.

"Before the DNA evidence was presented, there wasn’t a lot that was clear or convincing," Andrizzi said. "The fingernails were probably the most convincing of all the evidence we saw."

Today, Andrizzi’s life is far away from the graphic and emotional testimony he was asked to absorb for two weeks.

In the courtroom, Andrizzi was known as Juror Number 6. At home, Andrizzi is father and husband. At work, he prepares legal documents.

He said he did his best to separate himself from the case — something all jurors found difficult. Especially those with small children at home.

Andrizzi’s daughter is just 5 months old.

"It was a rough two weeks of testimony," he said. "The worst was listening to [the victim’s] mom and dad. That was a really hard time."

Several jurors broke down crying during prosecutors’ closing remarks. Upon reentering the courtroom, two women clutched tissues and all the jurors looked spent.

But Andrizzi said he has no regrets.

"We all wanted to feel the decision we were making was 100 percent the right one," he said. "I know I still do. ... It affected all of us in different ways, but, I think, in the end we all felt confident walking out with a [guilty] verdict."

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae

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