Mistrial Declared For Rancher Accused Of Killing Illegal Immigrant


Hailey Gomez General Assignment Reporter
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An Arizona judge declared a mistrial Monday evening in the criminal case against rancher George Alan Kelly, who is accused of killing an illegal immigrant on his property in 2023.

Kelly, 75, was charged Jan. 30, 2023, for second-degree murder and aggravated assault after shooting unarmed illegal immigrant Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, as he was passing through Kelly’s property near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to NewsNation. Both sides gave closing arguments Thursday, allowing the jury to deliberate over the evidence presented.

By Monday afternoon, the state argued that continuing the deadlock could be coercive for the jury, but Kelly’s team pushed for the jury to continue deliberations and give more time, the outlet reported. However, the group was unable to come to a unanimous decision on either count, deadlocking the process.

Following the declaration, Kelly’s defense attorney Kathy Lowthorp revealed outside the courthouse to the media that there had only been one guilty juror in the group, which was why the team pushed for deliberations to continue. (RELATED: ICE Removed Terror Suspect From Tracking Just Weeks After Entering Country)

“There was one hold out for guilt, the rest were not guilty. So seven not guilty, one guilty,” Lowthorp stated. “We believe in our gut that there was no way the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Officials stated that Cuen-Buitimea was traveling with a group of illegal immigrants last year, who ran after spotting Border Patrol agents within the area they had crossed over, according to ABC News. After running Cuen-Buitimea and another illegal migrant were allegedly heading back to the southern border, passing through Kelly’s ranch to get to their destination.

While Kelly’s team claimed that the rancher had only fired warning shots several yards above the group to protect him and his wife, prosecutors alleged that the 75-year-old recklessly fired his AK-47 from a distance of roughly 115 yards, allegedly striking Cuen-Buitimea in the back, ABC News reported.

Prosecutors continued to claim that Kelly’s statements to authorities following the incident were inconsistent throughout the investigation, stating that Kelly first failed to tell officials that he had fired his weapon and then allegedly claimed that the illegal immigrants were a group of about 10-15 people armed with AR-style rifles, the outlet reported.

Kelly’s defense team, instead, argued that law enforcement officials allegedly failed to follow alternative leads which could have cleared the accusations against the rancher as well as claiming that Kelly never admitted to shooting at multiple people, according to ABC News. While authorities were never able to recover the bullet that hit Cuen-Buitimea, Kelly’s defense alleged that another person within the illegal immigrant’s group shot him.

Cuen-Buitimea had lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico, and reportedly entered the U.S. illegally several times, with his last deportation to Mexico in 2016, NewsNation reported. Another immigrant, Daniel Ramirez, who was reportedly with him at the time of the incident told jurors that Cuen-Buitimea grabbed his own chest stating “I’m hit” before passing.

Ramirez additionally told the group that the two were allegedly being smuggled into the U.S., not trafficking drugs, however, the illegal immigrant admitted to smuggling marijuana during another incident in hopes that it would reduce the fee owed to smugglers to get him across. Cuen-Buitimea’s attorney, Marcos Moreno Baez, told media outside the courthouse that the trial “will continue to look for justice” as he was “positive that justice will prevail.”

“It is what it is, and it will be what it will be. Let me go home, okay? That alright with y’all? It is what it is and it will be what it will be. I will keep fighting forever. I won’t stop,” Kelly stated in response to the mistrial.

The next hearing for the issue is scheduled for April 29, according to News Nation.