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Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

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Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant
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Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

2024-04-23 10:02 Last Updated At:10:10

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a Mexican man on his property near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The decision came after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision after more than two full days of deliberation in trial of George Alan Kelly, 75, who was charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 30, 2023, shooting of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea.

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FILE - George Alan Kelly enters court for his preliminary hearing in Nogales Justice Court in Nogales, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2023. An Arizona judge declared a mistrial Monday, April 22, 2024, in the case of Kelly, accused of fatally shooting a Mexican man on his property near the U.S.-Mexico border. (Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a Mexican man on his property near the U.S.-Mexico border.

County Attorney Michael Jette addresses jurors during closing arguments in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Rancher George Alan Kelly accused of second-degree murder in the January 2023 death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, Pool)

County Attorney Michael Jette addresses jurors during closing arguments in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Rancher George Alan Kelly accused of second-degree murder in the January 2023 death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, Pool)

George Alan Kelly listens to closing arguments in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Kelly was charged with second-degree murder in the January 2023 death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, Pool)

George Alan Kelly listens to closing arguments in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Kelly was charged with second-degree murder in the January 2023 death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, Pool)

Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

FILE - George Alan Kelly exits the Santa Cruz County Courthouse with defense attorney Kathy Lowthorp after the first day of his trial in Santa Cruz County Superior Court Friday, March 22, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Jurors in the case of the Arizona rancher Kelly charged with fatally shooting a migrant on his property visited the scene of the killing as the third week of the trial wrapped up. The jurors on Thursday, April 11, 2024, viewed various locations at Kelly's ranch, as well as a section of the U.S.-Mexico border. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, File)

FILE - George Alan Kelly exits the Santa Cruz County Courthouse with defense attorney Kathy Lowthorp after the first day of his trial in Santa Cruz County Superior Court Friday, March 22, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Jurors in the case of the Arizona rancher Kelly charged with fatally shooting a migrant on his property visited the scene of the killing as the third week of the trial wrapped up. The jurors on Thursday, April 11, 2024, viewed various locations at Kelly's ranch, as well as a section of the U.S.-Mexico border. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, File)

Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

“Based upon the jury's inability to reach a verdict on any count,” Judge Thomas Fink said, “This case is in mistrial.”

The Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office can still decide whether to retry Kelly for any charge, or drop the case all together.

A status hearing was scheduled for next Monday afternoon, when prosecutors could inform the judge if they plan to refile the case. Prosecutors did not immediately respond to emailed requests for additional comment.

Kelly was charged with second-degree murder in killing of Cuen-Buitimea, 48, who lived just south of the border in Nogales, Mexico.

Prosecutors said Kelly recklessly fired nine shots from an AK-47 rifle toward a group of men, including Cuen-Buitimea, about 100 yards (90 meters) away on his cattle ranch. Kelly has said he fired warning shots in the air, but he didn’t shoot directly at anyone.

Court officials took jurors to Kelly’s ranch as well as a section of the border. Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink denied news media requests to tag along.

After Monday's ruling, Consul General Marcos Moreno Baez of the Mexican consulate in Nogales, Arizona, said he would wait with Cuen-Buitimea’s two adult daughters on Monday evening to meet with prosecutors from Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office to learn about the implications of a mistrial.

“Mexico will continue to follow the case and continue to accompany the family, which wants justice." said Moreno. "We hope for a very fair outcome.”

Kelly's defense attorney Brenna Larkin did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment after the ruling was issued. Larkin had asked Fink to have jurors keep deliberating another day.

Kelly had earlier rejected an agreement with prosecutors that would have reduced the charge to one count of negligent homicide if he pleaded guilty.

Kelly was also charged with aggravated assault that day against another person in the group of about eight people, including a man from Honduras who was living in Mexico and who testified during the trial that he had gone into the U.S. that day seeking work.

The other migrants weren’t injured and they all made it back to Mexico.

Cuen-Buitimea lived just south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. He had previously entered the U.S. illegally several times and was deported, most recently in 2016, court records show.

The nearly monthlong trial coincided with a presidential election year that has drawn widespread interest in border security.

Fink had told jurors that if they could not reach a verdict on the second-degree murder charge, they could try for a unanimous decision on a lesser charge of reckless manslaughter or negligent homicide. A second-degree murder conviction would have brought a minimum prison sentence of 10 years.

The jury got the case Thursday afternoon, deliberated briefly that day and then all of Friday and Monday.

FILE - George Alan Kelly enters court for his preliminary hearing in Nogales Justice Court in Nogales, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2023. An Arizona judge declared a mistrial Monday, April 22, 2024, in the case of Kelly, accused of fatally shooting a Mexican man on his property near the U.S.-Mexico border. (Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool, File)

FILE - George Alan Kelly enters court for his preliminary hearing in Nogales Justice Court in Nogales, Ariz., Feb. 22, 2023. An Arizona judge declared a mistrial Monday, April 22, 2024, in the case of Kelly, accused of fatally shooting a Mexican man on his property near the U.S.-Mexico border. (Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool, File)

County Attorney Michael Jette addresses jurors during closing arguments in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Rancher George Alan Kelly accused of second-degree murder in the January 2023 death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, Pool)

County Attorney Michael Jette addresses jurors during closing arguments in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Rancher George Alan Kelly accused of second-degree murder in the January 2023 death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, Pool)

George Alan Kelly listens to closing arguments in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Kelly was charged with second-degree murder in the January 2023 death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, Pool)

George Alan Kelly listens to closing arguments in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Kelly was charged with second-degree murder in the January 2023 death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, who lived south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, Pool)

Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

FILE - George Alan Kelly exits the Santa Cruz County Courthouse with defense attorney Kathy Lowthorp after the first day of his trial in Santa Cruz County Superior Court Friday, March 22, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Jurors in the case of the Arizona rancher Kelly charged with fatally shooting a migrant on his property visited the scene of the killing as the third week of the trial wrapped up. The jurors on Thursday, April 11, 2024, viewed various locations at Kelly's ranch, as well as a section of the U.S.-Mexico border. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, File)

FILE - George Alan Kelly exits the Santa Cruz County Courthouse with defense attorney Kathy Lowthorp after the first day of his trial in Santa Cruz County Superior Court Friday, March 22, 2024 in Nogales, Ariz. Jurors in the case of the Arizona rancher Kelly charged with fatally shooting a migrant on his property visited the scene of the killing as the third week of the trial wrapped up. The jurors on Thursday, April 11, 2024, viewed various locations at Kelly's ranch, as well as a section of the U.S.-Mexico border. (Angela Gervasi/Nogales International, via AP, File)

Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

Next Article

Fani Willis and judge presiding over Georgia Trump election case defeat challengers

2024-05-22 10:09 Last Updated At:10:10

ATLANTA (AP) — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, the Georgia prosecutor who brought a sprawling racketeering case against former President Donald Trump and others, has won the Democratic primary in her bid for reelection.

Willis defeated progressive attorney Christian Wise Smith in the primary election and is now set to face off against Republican Courtney Kramer in the fall. Willis told reporters after her victory that the voters sent a message that “people want a DA that is just, that treats everybody equally and that works hard, and they know that they have that in me.”

Meanwhile, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, the judge who was randomly assigned to preside over the election interference case, also fended off a challenger, winning a nonpartisan election to keep his seat.

The Trump election case and racketeering cases against well-known rappers have boosted Willis’ public profile. But on Tuesday night she touted her efforts to fight violent crime by being tough on gang members while also saying she worked to give second chances to first offenders and created programs to catch at-risk youth before they get caught up in the criminal justice system.

“The people said yes to justice. The people said yes to safety. The people said yes to integrity. The people said yes to Fani Willis," Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said to applause Tuesday night at Willis' victory party.

With her name recognition, the advantages of incumbency and a hefty fundraising haul, Willis’ victory in the primary was not terribly surprising. As she moves on to the general election, the odds would seem to be in her favor as well. Fulton County includes most of the city of Atlanta and is heavily Democratic, about 73% of its voters having cast ballots for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

But Willis was taking nothing for granted after her primary win, telling supporters, “The campaign does not end tonight. It begins tonight.”

“My opponent is completely unqualified,” she said, later adding, “But while she is inexperienced and unqualified and does not represent the values of my county, don't get confused. She is a real threat because of who backs her and how they back her.”

Willis urged her supporters to continue to back her financially, noting that there was a store selling campaign merchandise onsite during her victory party.

Kramer, who has ties to some of Trump’s most prominent allies in Georgia and has drawn campaign contributions from both the county and state Republican parties, told reporters when she qualified to run that the Trump indictment prompted her to challenge Willis. In a post on the social media platform X earlier this month, she wrote, “The future of Fulton and safety in our community should not be controlled by self-interested politicians who use their office for political law fare. It’s time for a change.”

McAfee has been on the bench since last year when Republican Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him to fill an empty seat. He has since become one of the most high-profile judges in Georgia since he was randomly assigned last year to preside over the election interference case. With the added advantages of incumbency, strong bipartisan backing from heavy hitters and an impressive fundraising haul, he was the likely favorite to win.

Willis and Smith both worked in the Fulton County district attorney’s office under then-District Attorney Paul Howard. They both challenged their former boss in the Democratic primary in 2020. Willis and Howard advanced to a runoff that she won, and she ran unopposed in the November general election that year.

Kramer ran unopposed in the Republican primary Tuesday and has already been focusing her attention on attacking Willis. A lawyer who interned in the Trump White House, she has ties to some of the former president's prominent allies in Georgia.

Kramer and her backers will undoubtedly continue to focus on what even some of Willis' closest allies have seen as a major misstep — her romantic relationship with a special prosecutor she hired for the election case. Claims by defense attorneys in the case that the romance created a conflict of interest threatened to derail the prosecution.

McAfee ultimately ruled that it did not create a conflict of interest that should disqualify Willis, but he said she could only continue the case if the special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, stepped aside. Wade promptly left the case, but a defense appeal of McAfee's ruling is now pending before the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Wade was among those gathered at an event space in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood Tuesday evening to celebrate Willis' win.

Willis obtained an indictment in August against Trump and 18 others, accusing them of participating in an alleged illegal scheme to overturn Trump's narrow loss in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Four people have pleaded guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors. Trump and the 14 others who remain have pleaded not guilty.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks after winning re-election in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks after winning re-election in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks to the media after winning the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks to the media after winning the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks after winning re-election in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks after winning re-election in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis celebrates winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis celebrates winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens takes a photograph with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis before she speaks and after winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens takes a photograph with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis before she speaks and after winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis celebrates with supporters after winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis celebrates with supporters after winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis arrives before she speaks after winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis arrives before she speaks after winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis arrives before she speaks after winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis arrives before she speaks after winning re-election in the primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

In this photo combination of file images, Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee presides in court, left, while Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, right, looks on during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, March, 1, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photos/Alex Slitz)

In this photo combination of file images, Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee presides in court, left, while Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, right, looks on during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, March, 1, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photos/Alex Slitz)

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