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Judge calls mistrial in Arizona rancher’s murder trial

(NewsNation) — The jury in the trial of 75-year-old Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly was unable to reach a verdict Friday, prompting the judge to call a mistrial after the state requested it.

Kelly is on trial in connection to the fatal shooting of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, an unarmed migrant, on his property near the U.S.-Mexico border. Kelly is facing second-degree murder and aggravated assault charges for the Jan. 30, 2023, killing.

The state argued that pushing the jury to continue deliberating after expressing an impasse could be coercive, but the defense countered that jurors had only briefly considered the new instructions before indicating they were deadlocked and should be given more time.

The jury said it was at an impasse and could not reach a unanimous decision on either count. A status hearing is scheduled for Monday, April 29.

Cuen-Buitimea, 48, lived just south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. Court records show Cuen-Buitimea had previously entered the U.S. illegally several times and was deported, most recently in 2016.

Cuen-Buitimea was in a group of men that Kelly encountered on his property. Prosecutor Mike Jette said Kelly recklessly fired an AK-47 rifle toward the group that was about 100 yards away.

Kelly said he fired warning shots in the air, but he didn’t shoot directly at anyone, explaining that he feared for his safety and that of his wife and property.

“He says he shot 100 yards over their heads. But he never told law enforcement that he was in fear of his life,” Jette said in closing arguments.

Kelly fired nine shots toward the group, according to Jette, who said Cuen-Buitimea suffered three broken ribs and a severed aorta.

Kelly discovered the body after detectives scoured the area, but no bullet was ever recovered.

The other migrants on Kelly’s ranch in 2023 weren’t injured and managed to escape back to Mexico.

The trial that started March 22 included jurors visiting Kelly’s nearly 170-acre cattle ranch in Nogales, Arizona.

Earlier in proceedings, Kelly rejected an agreement with prosecutors that would have reduced the charge to one count of negligent homicide if he pleaded guilty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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