Appellate Court Affirms Jury Verdict Against Vigilante Rancher Who Attacked U.S. Citizens On Arizona Border

February 02, 2008

TUCSON, AZ – This week, the Arizona Court of Appeals denied the appeal of border vigilante Roger Barnett who was found liable by a jury after assaulting a family of Latino U.S. citizens while they were hunting on state land in southern Arizona. MALDEF, which represents the plaintiffs in the appeal, urged the appellate court to reject Barnett's request for a new trial and argued that the jury had rightfully found Barnett at fault for his vicious attack upon the family. The appellate court rejected Barnett's claims that his acts were justified and affirmed the trial judge's conclusion that Barnett had received a fair trial.

The Morales family and Emma English, a family friend, filed suit after Barnett confronted them on state leased land in November 2004, while they were on a family hunting trip. Armed with a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle, Barnett held the family at gunpoint, cursed and screamed racial slurs at them and threatened to kill them all. The jury heard the testimony of three young girls, all under the age of twelve at the time, that vividly described the event and the trauma they suffered at the hands of Barnett. The jury ultimately awarded the family $100,000 in damages, which Barnett must pay now that the appellate court has rejected his appeal.

'Border vigilantes would stop at nothing were it not for the bravery of people like the Morales family who are United States citizens and stood up to this lawlessness,' stated John Trasviña, MALDEF President and General Counsel. 'As we see anti-Latino hate crimes at historical levels, this ruling upholding a jury verdict against those who tried to take immigration laws into their own hands is sorely needed.” 'The jury saw right through Barnett's claim that this was a case involving the protection of private property' added David Urias, MALDEF Staff Attorney and lead counsel on appeal. 'Instead, they recognized that Barnett's racially motivated actions were outrageous and offensive to notions of common decency.'

MALDEF also represents 16 individuals who were assaulted in a similar fashion by Barnett in March 2004 near a state highway in Douglas, Arizona. The case is currently pending in federal court and expected to go to trial this summer.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund