Mistrial Declared in Case of Rancher Accused of Fatally Shooting Illegal Immigrant

An Arizona judge on April 22 declared a mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a Mexican man on his property near the U.S.–Mexico border.

PHOENIX—An Arizona judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting an illegal immigrant on his property near the U.S.–Mexico border.

The decision came after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision after more than two full days of deliberation in the trial of George Alan Kelly, 75.

Mr. Kelly was charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 30, 2023, shooting of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, a Mexican man who lived just south of the border in Nogales, Mexico.

Prosecutors said Mr. Kelly recklessly fired nine shots from a rifle toward a group of men, including Mr. Cuen-Buitimea, about 100 yards (90 meters) away on his cattle ranch. Mr. Kelly has said he fired warning shots in the air, but he didn’t shoot directly at anyone.

Court officials took jurors to Mr. Kelly’s ranch as well as a section of the border. Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink denied news media requests to tag along.

After Monday’s ruling, Consul General Marcos Moreno Baez of the Mexican consulate in Nogales, Arizona, said he would wait with Mr. Cuen-Buitimea’s two adult daughters on Monday evening to meet with prosecutors from Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office to learn about the implications of a mistrial.

“Mexico will continue to follow the case and continue to accompany the family, which wants justice.” said Mr. Moreno. “We hope for a very fair outcome.”

NTD Photo
George Alan Kelly listens to the prosecution during opening arguments in his trial at Santa Cruz County Superior Court in Nogales, Ariz., on March 22, 2024. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International via AP, Pool)

Mr. Kelly had earlier rejected an agreement with prosecutors that would have reduced the charge to one count of negligent homicide if he pleaded guilty.

Mr. Kelly was also charged with aggravated assault that day against another person in the group of about eight people, including a man from Honduras who was living in Mexico and who testified during the trial that he had gone into the United States that day seeking work.

The other illegal immigrants weren’t injured and they all made it back to Mexico.

Mr. Cuen-Buitimea lived just south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. He had previously entered the United States illegally several times and was deported, most recently in 2016, court records show.

The nearly monthlong trial coincided with a presidential election year that has drawn widespread interest in border security.

Judge Fink had told jurors that if they could not reach a verdict on the second-degree murder charge, they could try for a unanimous decision on a lesser charge of reckless manslaughter or negligent homicide. A second-degree murder conviction would have brought a minimum prison sentence of 10 years.

The jury got the case Thursday afternoon, deliberated briefly that day and then all of Friday and Monday.

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