Judge to rule on Alec Baldwin bid to avoid ‘Rust’ trial

By Thomson Reuters May 17, 2024 | 5:09 AM

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – A New Mexico judge was expected to rule on Friday whether to throw out the involuntary manslaughter case against actor Alec Baldwin in the 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during filming of the Western movie ‘Rust.’

Baldwin’s lawyers have filed motions to dismiss his indictment, alleging prosecutorial misconduct, a failure to show the actor committed a crime and destruction of evidence during testing of the gun Baldwin was using during a rehearsal on the film’s New Mexico set.

Hutchins was shot with a live round after Baldwin pointed the gun at her as she set up a camera. The “30 Rock” actor maintains he did not pull the trigger, an assertion that has become central to the case.

District court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer scheduled a 10:00 a.m. virtual hearing on the defense motions Friday after which she is expected to rule on them.

It may be Baldwin’s last chance to avoid what Hollywood historians regard as an unprecedented manslaughter trial of a leading actor for an on-set death.

Marlowe Sommer sentenced “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez to 18 months prison in April after a Santa Fe jury found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter for loading the live round into the reproduction Colt Single Action Army revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with.

Should Baldwin’s trial go ahead, it was set to start July 10. Legal observers said it was unlikely that case would be thrown out.

“While Baldwin has some strong facts on his side, there is always a risk of conviction – just ask Hannah Gutierrez,” said criminal trial lawyer Rachel Fiset, who saw a “miniscule” chance the indictment would be thrown out.

Business and entertainment litigator Tre Lovell said he did not expect the actor to be convicted at trial if his attorneys followed the legal pathway laid out in their motions.

New Mexico prosecutor Kari Morrissey has said in court filings that Baldwin has “lied with impunity’ about the shooting.

Baldwin’s case involves the first on-set fatal shooting with a live round mistaken for a dummy or blank round since Hollywood’s silent era, according to historian Alan Rode.

Hollywood on-set shootings have in the past been settled through civil lawsuits, such as the last fatality in 1993 when Brandon Lee was killed when a blank round dislodged a bullet stuck in a revolver’s barrel during filming of “The Crow.”

(Reporting By Andrew Hay; editing by Donna Bryson and Aurora Ellis)