Arizona Rancher’s Murder Trial Ends In Mistrial, Jury Deadlocked

The murder trial of George Alan Kelly a 75-year-old Arizona rancher accused of fatally shooting an illegal immigrant who trespassed on his property has ended in a mistrial. The judge declared the mistrial on Monday after the jury reported that they were hopelessly deadlocked following days of deliberations. Reports suggest that only one juror wanted to vote to convict the rancher whose circumstances have gained national attention as the U.S. government charged a man for doing the job that the U.S. government itself is responsible for doing.

Kelly was charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault in connection with the death of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea who died on Kelly’s 170-acre cattle ranch near the US-Mexico border. Prosecutors alleged that Cuen-Buitimea was killed by a bullet fired into the air by Kelly. However investigators were unable to recover the actual bullet that allegedly caused the death.

Throughout the trial Kelly’s defense argued that the shooting was a defensive act. Kelly claimed that he only fired warning shots into the air when he perceived a threat from armed individuals on his land. His wife Wanda Kelly testified that she saw two men carrying weapons near their home.

Defense attorney Brenna Larkin argued that Kelly was justified in his actions stating “He was confronted with a threat right outside his home. He would have been absolutely justified to use deadly force but he did not.

Prosecutor Mike Jette challenged the defense’s argument claiming that there was no justification for Kelly’s actions as the individuals were unarmed and posed no direct threat. “You do not have the right to use deadly force when there is no threat to home or yard” Jette argued.

In her summation Larkin argued to the jurors that the law does not prohibit the use of lesser force for self-defense. She emphasized the isolated nature of Kelly’s property stating “This is not downtown Nogales. This is not a populated area. This is isolated. It is empty. He can fire warning shots to protect himself and to protect his wife. And that’s exactly what he did. That’s exactly what any man who cares about his wife and his home should do in this situation when faced with the threat that he was faced with.”

The mistrial leaves the future of the case uncertain. It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will seek to retry Kelly on the charges or if a plea agreement might be reached.