Morales v. Barnett

In November 2004, the Morales family and their friend Emma English, all United States citizens, were assaulted by border vigilante Roger Barnett while they were hunting on state land in southern Arizona. Armed with a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle, Barnett held them at gunpoint, cursed and screamed racial slurs at them, and threatened to kill them.

At the trial court, Barnett was convicted by a jury of his peers and the family was awarded monetary compensation for their damages. Although Barnett claimed that this was a case involving the protection of private property, the court ruled that Barnett's actions were racially motivated, outrageous, and offensive.

Barnett appealed and MALDEF handled the case on appeal. MALDEF argued that the jury had rightfully found Barnett at fault for his vicious attack upon the family and urged the court to reject Barnett's request for a new trial. The appellate court rejected Barnett's claims and affirmed the trial judge's conclusion that Barnett had received a fair trial. In September 2008, the Arizona Supreme Court denied Barnett’s Petition for Review and affirmed the civil judgment in favor of the Morales family and Emma English. The Morales case was an important victory for the rule of law over racist and violent anti-immigrant vigilantism.

MALDEF also represents 16 individuals who were assaulted in a similar fashion by Barnett in March 2004 near a state highway in Douglas, Arizona, in the case of Vicente v. Barnett. The Vicente case was tried in federal court and resulted in a victory on behalf of the women plaintiffs in February 2009.

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