Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 18, 2009

Arizona jury finds vigilante rancher liable for immigrant attack


MALDEF hails verdict as fair outcome for immigrant plaintiffs
By Derechos Humanos

TUCSON, AZ - A civil jury held today that a vigilante rancher operating along the Arizona-Mexico border is liable for assaulting and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on a group of immigrants he found on public land.

The plaintiffs were resting in a wash in Douglas, Arizona when they were accosted by defendant Roger Barnett who was armed with a gun and accompanied by a large dog. Roger Barnett held the group captive at gunpoint, threatening that his dog would attack and that he would shoot anyone who tried to leave. During the encounter, Barnett kicked a plaintiff as she was lying, unarmed, on the ground.

The jury found in favor of the women plaintiffs and awarded damages on their claims of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Barnett must now pay $73,352 in damages to the victims.

This is not the first racial assault case filed against the Barnett family. The Morales family and Emma English, a family friend, are U.S. citizens who filed suit after Barnett confronted them on state 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. In September 2008, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected Barnett's appeal and allowed to stand a jury award to the family of close to $100,000 in damages.

"A jury of ordinary people found that Roger Barnett's conduct was extreme and outrageous and will not be tolerated," stated David H. Urias, counsel for the plaintiffs and an associate with the law firm of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives P.A.

"We are very pleased with the jury's verdict. The plaintiffs in this case had the unique opportunity to testify about the horrifying actions of defendant Roger Barnett. This verdict in favor of the plaintiffs sends a strong message condemning vigilante violence against immigrants," stated MALDEF staff attorney Marisol Perez.

The law firms of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP and Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, P.L.C., participated as pro bono counsel on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF, the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through litigation, advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development, and higher education scholarships. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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