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Arizona rancher accused of fatal shooting will not be retried, prosecutors say

PHOENIX (AP) — Prosecutors said Monday they will not retry an Arizona rancher whose trial in the fatal shooting of a Mexican man on his property ended last week with a deadlocked jury .

Jurors in the trial of George Alan Kelly failed to reach a unanimous decision on a verdict after more than two days of deliberations. Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink declared a mistrial on April 22.

After the mistrial, the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office had the option to retry Kelly — or drop the case.

“Due to the unique circumstances and challenges surrounding this case, the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office has decided not to seek a new trial,” Assistant County Attorney Kimberly Hunley said Monday.

Fink agreed to dismiss the case. He said a hearing would be scheduled later to determine whether the case would be dismissed with prejudice, meaning it could not go back to court.

Kelly’s defense attorney, Brenna Larkin, told the judge she would file a motion to dismiss without prejudice to the case.

Larkin did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment after the ruling.

When a Tucson journalist KGUN TV Channel When asked about Kelly’s reaction outside the courthouse, he said he felt “relieved.”

“The nightmare is over,” Kelly added, saying the victim’s family “has my sincere sympathy.”

Kelly was followed by demonstrators demonstrating in support of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, 48, who was shot and killed on January 30, 2023.

“Gabriel was a human being,” said a sign carried by the demonstrators.

“Someone walking 100 yards (91.44 meters) is not a threat,” reads another, which calls for a new trial.

Kelly, 75, had been on trial for nearly a month in Nogales, a city on the border with Mexico. The rancher had been charged with second-degree murder in the killing near Nogales, Arizona.

Cuen-Buitimea lived just south of the border in Nogales, Mexico. He was among a group of men Kelly met that day at his cattle ranch. His two adult daughters, along with Mexican consular officials, met with prosecutors last week to learn the implications of a mistrial.

The Mexican consulate in Nogales, Arizona, said it would issue a statement later.

Prosecutors had said Kelly recklessly fired nine shots since an AK-47 rifle towards a group of men on his cattle farm, notably in Cuen-Buitimea, about 90 meters away. Kelly said he fired warning shots into the air, but maintained he did not shoot directly at anyone.

The trial coincided with a presidential election year that sparked widespread interest in border security. During this, court officials took jurors at Kelly’s ranch as well as a section of the US-Mexico border.

Earlier, Kelly had rejected a agreement with prosecutors this would have reduced the charge to one count of negligent homicide if he had pleaded guilty.

Kelly was also charged with aggravated assault on another person in the group of about eight people.

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