Jury visits a ranch near US-Mexico border where an Arizona man is charged with killing a migrant

PHOENIX — Jurors in the case of an Arizona rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant on his property near the U.S.-Mexico border visited the killing site as the third week of the trial ended.

Court officials took jurors in a van Thursday to see several locations on George Alan Kelly’s ranch, as well as part of the border. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Fink denied requests from the news media to get involved.

The case in Nogales, Arizona, has drawn national attention as border security becomes an increasingly important issue in this year’s presidential election.

Fink said this week that the case was taking longer than he had hoped and that he would begin imposing time limits on testimony to ensure the case goes to the jury next Thursday.

Kelly, 75, is charged with first-degree murder of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea, a Mexican national. Kelly has said he fired warning shots into the air but did not shoot anyone directly.

Cuen-Buitimea was part of a group of migrants Kelly encountered on his 150-acre cattle ranch. Prosecutors have said Kelly recklessly fired an AK-47 rifle at the migrants, who were about 300 feet away, but Kelly and his defense team reject that account.

Jury visits to crime scenes are relatively rare, but Fink has suggested that jurors in this case would get a better sense of how the events on the day of the shooting were viewed by several people who testified.

In 2018, federal jurors in the trial of a U.S. Border Patrol agent charged in the fatal shooting of a teenager across the Mexican border, also in the Nogales, Arizona, area, were brought to the shooting scene after dark to investigate the observe conditions. was at the time. Former officer Lonnie Schwartz was acquitted in the murder of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez when jurors failed to reach a verdict on a voluntary manslaughter charge.

Kelly was arrested last year and charged in the Jan. 30, 2023, fatal shooting of Cuen-Buitimea, who lived in Nogales, Mexico, just south of the border.

The bullet that killed Cuen-Buitimea was not found in the body or at the scene.