Case Ends in Mistrial for Rancher Accused of Murdering Trespassing Immigrant

( – George Alan Kelly, a 75-year-old rancher accused of murdering a trespassing immigrant, has had his ongoing legal battle delayed due to a mistrial in his criminal case. Kelly allegedly killed Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, a 48-year-old immigrant from Mexico who trespassed on Kelly’s Arizona property. Kelly’s trial lasted more than four weeks, resulting in a mistrial after the jury couldn’t return a unanimous verdict. A follow-up hearing will occur in the coming weeks, where prosecutors will decide if they intend to try Kelly a second time for Cuen-Buitimea’s death.

The judge overseeing Kelly’s trial, Judge Thomas Fink, announced the mistrial after jury deliberations lasted more than four days. Fink scheduled a follow-up hearing for April 29, where prosecutors can argue for a second trial. Kelly’s lawyer addressed the mistrial publicly, describing the jury’s failure to reach a unanimous decision as a victory. Kelly’s attorney acknowledged that the elderly rancher’s legal battle isn’t over yet and said she’s committed to securing another win for the Arizona rancher.

Kelly first encountered Cuen-Buitimea in January 2023, when Cuen-Buitimea and several other immigrants entered Kelly’s ranch without his permission. Kelly claims that after spotting the group of people, he believed he saw them carrying various weapons and shot in the air to scare them off. Prosecutors claim that Kelly’s warning shots ended up striking Cuen-Buitimea, who died on Kelly’s property. Kelly’s defense attorneys told a different story during the rancher’s trial, claiming that an unidentified third party shot and killed Cuen-Buitimea.

Kelly’s lawyers said that once the rancher discovered Cuen-Buitimea’s body on his property, he immediately contacted the authorities and cooperated with the subsequent investigation. Despite Kelly’s claims of innocence, prosecutors said that Kelly escalated the encounter with the group of immigrants on his property, ultimately resulting in Cuen-Buitimea’s death. Kelly faced second-degree murder charges for Cuen-Buitimea’s death but pled not guilty and maintained his innocence throughout his first trial.

When explaining his decision to fire warning shots, Kelly said that he feared for his wife’s safety and wanted to frighten the immigrants on his property. Prosecutors disagreed and noted that Kelly acted inappropriately by firing the warning shots due to the lack of an immediate threat against him or his wife. Despite the prosecution’s condemnation of Kelly’s actions, the jury wasn’t entirely convinced, likely due to the growing occurrence of immigration in the area where Cuen-Buitimea died. Kelly’s attorneys said that anyone in Kelly’s situation would’ve acted similarly due to the pressing threat posed by potentially dangerous individuals who illegally enter the United States.

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