Arizona Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Vigilante Rancher Who Attached U.S. Citizens On Arizona Border

September 23, 2008

PHOENIX, AZ – Today, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected 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. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which represents the plaintiffs in the case, urged the Supreme Court to reject Barnett’s appeal and argued that the jury had rightfully found Barnett at fault for his vicious attack upon the family.

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 12 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 Supreme Court has rejected his appeal.

“Today, more than the Morales family emerges victorious. The principles of freedom shared by Latinos and Americans of all ancestries stand tall. We will not accept racially motivated violence against members of our community at the border or anywhere in this country,” stated MALDEF President and General Counsel John Trasviña.

“The Supreme Court’s decision means that Barnett will finally have to pay for his attack on the Morales family and Emma English,” added Marisol Perez, MALDEF Staff Attorney. “Barnett’s actions were outrageous and offensive to notions of common decency.”

MALDEF also represents 16 individuals who complained they 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 in the Spring of 2009.

For the text of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Morales case, click here (PDF).

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund