Mistrial Declared In Arizona Rancher’s Murder Trial

The trial of George Kelly a 75-year-old Arizona rancher charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the shooting death of an illegal immigrant on his property has ended in a mistrial. The judge declared the mistrial on Monday after the jury reported that they were hopelessly deadlocked after days of deliberations.

Kelly was accused of fatally shooting 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea a Mexican national who had been deported from the U.S. several years earlier. The shooting occurred on Kelly’s 170-acre cattle ranch near the US-Mexico border in January 2023. Prosecutors alleged that Kelly fired a series of shots in the direction of the immigrants he spotted on his property with one of the shots striking and killing Cuen-Buitimea.

Kelly’s defense team argued that their client’s actions were an act of self-defense in an effort to scare off the trespassers. They presented Kelly’s behavior as restrained considering the “life-or-death situation” he encountered that day.

“He was confronted with a threat right outside his home” defense attorney Brenna Larkin said. “He would have been absolutely justified to use deadly force but he did not.”

Larkin also rejected the common narrative that undocumented migrants illegally cross the border primarily to work hard and pursue a better life. “Long story short this is simply not somebody who’s looking for the American dream” she said of Cuen-Buitimea. “There’s no evidence that this person is here for those kinds of benign purposes. And we bring that up not you know to be judgmental about Gabriel or to not have compassion for him. But when people are involved in a criminal lifestyle it’s dangerous. It’s more inherently dangerous than simply being a migrant who’s coming here. So it’s relevant for that reason.”

Prosecutors challenged the defense’s argument claiming that there was no justification for Kelly’s actions as the individuals were unarmed and posed no direct threat.

Jurors began deliberations last week and after being sent home over the weekend resumed discussions on Monday but were unable to arrive at a unanimous opinion. Reports indicate that only one juror wanted to vote to convict the rancher.

The mistrial leaves the future of the case uncertain with the possibility of a retrial or plea agreement. The case has highlighted the ongoing challenges faced by Americans living near the southern border who routinely encounter undocumented migrants trespassing on their property.