Arizona Rancher Accused of Killing Migrant Won’t Be Retried After Mistrial


Prosecutors in Arizona said on Monday that they would not retry a rancher who was charged with murdering an unarmed migrant on his property last year after a mistrial was declared last week.

Jurors were not able to reach a unanimous verdict in the case against George Kelly, 75, who fatally shot at Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, on his 170-acre ranch in Kino Springs, Ariz., after Mr. Cuen-Buitimea crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in January 2023. Judge Thomas Fink of Santa Cruz County Superior Court declared a mistrial on April 22.

The Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office said in a statement on Monday that “because of the unique circumstances and challenges surrounding” the case, Mr. Kelly would not be retried.

“However, our office’s decision in this case should not be construed as a position on future cases of this type,” the office said. “Our office is mandated by statute to prosecute criminal acts, and we take that statutory mandate seriously.”

Brenna Larkin, a lawyer for Mr. Kelly, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Ms. Larkin said last week that there had been a hung jury in the case, and that the final count had been 7-1 in favor of finding Mr. Kelly not guilty.

Mr. Cuen-Buitimea was part of a group of undocumented migrants who were crossing the high desert in Kino Springs, Ariz., near the border with Mexico on Jan. 30, 2023, when they were spotted by Border Patrol and fled, according to the authorities. Mr. Cuen-Buitimea and another man, Daniel Ramirez, ran onto Mr. Kelly’s ranch, which is when Mr. Kelly fired an AK-47-style rifle at them, the authorities said.

Mr. Cuen-Buitimea was struck in the back and died, law enforcement officials said.

Mr. Kelly was charged in February 2023 with one count of second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

The case emboldened immigration critics and conservative ranchers, who said that Mr. Kelly had been a victim, while others were horrified by the shooting.

Ms. Larkin said in court documents that Mr. Kelly had been eating lunch the day of the shooting when he and his wife saw several men armed with rifles near his home.

“Mr. Kelly responded by firing several warning shots over the heads of the group,” she wrote in court documents.

Michael Jette, a deputy Santa Cruz County attorney, said during closing arguments on April 18 that Mr. Kelly had fired his gun “without verbal warning, without a shout, without any indication,” The Associated Press reported.

Before the case went to trial in March, Mr. Kelly rejected a plea agreement that would have reduced the charges to one count of negligent homicide.

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