Vicente v. Barnett

Since the late 1990’s, vigilantes along the Mexican-American border have engaged in private campaigns to hunt and detain Latino immigrants or presumed immigrants often against their will and by gunpoint. In March 2004, a group of Latinos were violently assaulted, detained and threatened with death by rancher Roger Barnett, his wife, Barbara, and his brother, Donald.

In 2005, MALDEF brought a lawsuit on behalf of 16 plaintiffs to recover damages for injuries inflicted upon them by the Barnetts. The group, including a young teenage girl, were resting near a state highway along the Arizona-Mexico Border when they were accosted by Roger Barnett and his wife, armed and accompanied by a large dog. The Barnetts held the unarmed group of terrified men and women at gunpoint and kicked one of the women as she lay on the ground. In March of 2008, the United States District Court for Arizona denied all of the Barnetts' motions to dismiss and ordered that the case move forward to trial.

In February 2009, a civil jury found in favor of the women plaintiffs and awarded damages on their claims of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The case was a victory in favor of the plaintffs who suffered unjustly from Barnett's extreme and hateful antics.

This lawsuit stems from just one of many violent vigilante acts by the Barnetts and others like them on the southern Arizona border. In a similar case, Morales v. Barnett, the Arizona Court of Appeals and Arizona Supreme Court rejected Barnett’s appeal after a jury found him liable for assaulting a family of Latino U.S. citizens who were hunting on state land near his ranch. This case was also litigated by MALDEF.

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund