Case of Arizona rancher who allegedly shot Mexican migrant near border ends in mistrial

 April 24, 2024

The trial of an Arizona rancher accused of shooting a Mexican illegal immigrant on his property near the border ended in a mistrial Monday after the jury could not come to a unanimous decision of guilt or innocence after two full days of deliberation.

George Alan Kelly, 75, was charged with second-degree murder for the death of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea on January 30, 2023.

"Based upon the jury's inability to reach a verdict on any count," Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink said, "This case is in mistrial."

Cuen0-Buitimea lived in Nogales, Mexico and had repeatedly been arrested in the U.S. and deported over a period of years before showing up on Kelly's property.

Kelly's denial

The Santa Cruz County Attorney's Office can decide to retry Kelly if it wants to. A hearing will be held next week to discuss whether the office plans to pursue a new trial.

Kelly said that he had fired warning shots with his AK-47 toward a group of men that included Cuen-Buitmea but had not intended to hit anyone.

"He does not believe that any of his warning shots could have possibly hit the person or caused the death," his lawyer said at the time. "All the shooting that Mr. Kelly did on the date of the incident was in self-defense and justified."

"Mexico will continue to follow the case and continue to accompany the family, which wants justice." said Consul General Marcos Moreno Baez of the Mexican consulate in Nogales, Arizona. "We hope for a very fair outcome."

Cuen-Buitmea has two adult daughters in Mexico.

The outcome

Kelly's attorney Brenna Larkin asked the jury to keep deliberating for another day.

The jury was told it could agree on a lesser charge of reckless manslaughter or negligent homicide if it couldn't agree on the murder charge, but it apparently could not agree on that either.

A Fox News report said that seven members of the jury wanted to acquit Kelly and one lone holdout wanted to convict him.

"They won't wear me down," Kelly said at the courthouse.

Larkin said that prosecutors failed to prove that Cuen-Buitmea had been shot with Kelly's gun. Kelly and his wife also reported twice the day he was shot that armed men were on their property.

The body was found later that day on the property.

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