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Mistrial Declared in Case of Arizona Rancher Accused of Murdering Migrant

A judge on Monday declared a mistrial for an Arizona rancher accused of killing an unarmed migrant on his property who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last year, a case that has infuriated people on both sides of the national debate over immigration.

The mistrial was brought after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict during deliberations that began on Thursday. A judge has scheduled a trial for April 29, according to the Santa Cruz County Superior Court in Arizona.

Calls left Monday evening to the prosecutor and to Kelly's lawyer, Brenna Larkin, were not immediately returned.

According to authorities, Gabriel Kuyen Buitimea was among a group of illegal immigrants crossing the high desert in Kino Springs, Arizona, near the Mexican border on Jan. 30, 2023, when they scattered after spotting a Border Patrol vehicle.

Authorities said Quyen Buitimea and Daniel Ramirez ran onto George Alan Kelly's 170-acre ranch when Kelly fired an AK-47-style rifle at them. Quyen Buitimea, 48, who had entered the United States from his native Mexico looking for work, was shot in the back, authorities said.

Immigration critics and conservative ranchers attacked the case in social media posts, portraying Kelly as the true victim and arguing that the murder was evidence of growing threats to their safety and way of life, but many in Santa Cruz County were horrified by the murder and viewed the surge in migrants crossing the border as a humanitarian crisis.

Kelly, 75, pleaded not guilty in March of last year to one count of second-degree murder and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for endangering Ramirez and was released on $1 million bail.

Jurors began deliberations Thursday in the conclusion of the trial that began in mid-March. Kelly He previously rejected a plea deal. That would have reduced the charge to one count of manslaughter.

Santa Cruz County Deputy Attorney Michael Jett said, according to the Associated Press. stated in closing argument On Thursday, Kelly pointed a gun at Kueng Buitimea “without any verbal warning, without any screaming, without any other indication” and fired “over and over again” in his direction, nine times in total, Jette said. Kueng Buitimea suffered a severed aorta and three broken ribs.

“The gunman said he shot from 100 yards away,” Jette said, according to the Associated Press, “but he never told police he was in fear for his life.”

Larkin gave a completely different account in court documents and at trial, saying he and Kelly were eating lunch when he heard gunfire. His lawyers said Kelly then saw a group of men in camouflage uniforms carrying assault rifles cross his property and that one of the men pointed the rifle at him, so he fired a warning shot over their heads.

Jette told jurors that law enforcement officers found no evidence of a rifle or backpacks or any signs that a large group of people had crossed Kelly's property. According to the Arizona Republic.

Larkin disputed whether Kelly fired the fatal shot and suggested Kueng Buitimea may have been killed in a gang war. According to the Associated Press, Larkin said Thursday that his client was “in a life-or-death situation” and that it was a “frightening scenario” for him.

“He faced a threat right outside his home,” she said, “and he would have been entirely justified in using deadly force, but he did not.”

Larkin said Kelly had become increasingly concerned about migrants passing through his land and had begun arming himself to protect himself, according to the Associated Press.

Jesus Jimenez Contributed report.

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