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New Mexico judge denies Alec Baldwin's motion to dismiss criminal case in 'Rust' shooting

Meg James, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

A New Mexico judge denied a motion to dismiss the involuntary manslaughter case against Alec Baldwin, clearing the way for the high-profile actor to stand trial for his alleged role in the deadly “Rust” movie shooting.

New Mexico First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer’s decision late Friday was a setback to Baldwin and his legal team, who had argued that prosecutors were bent on winning a conviction of the 66-year-old actor-producer at all costs following the October 2021 accidental shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the low-budget western movie set near Santa Fe.

Baldwin is scheduled to stand trial in a Santa Fe courtroom in July on the felony charge that, if convicted, carries a prison sentence of up to 18 months. He has pleaded not guilty.

In January, grand jurors in Santa Fe County indicted Baldwin on an involuntary manslaughter charge, determining there was sufficient evidence that he acted negligently by pointing a loaded gun at Hutchins without first checking the weapon.

After the indictment, Baldwin’s lawyers pored over transcripts of the grand jury proceedings to try to build a case that Special Prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey had at times shut down testimony that could have been beneficial to their client.

“The state has sought to convict and imprison Baldwin for an accident caused by the mistakes of others,” Baldwin’s attorney Luke Nikas wrote in a motion to dismiss the indictment.


Baldwin’s attorneys argued in a hearing last week that Morrissey failed in her duty to provide testimony in a “fair and impartial manner.”

Marlowe Sommer on Friday wrote in her 19-page ruling that defense attorneys failed to provide evidence of “prosecutorial bad faith.”

At issue was whether grand jurors were fully informed that they could call witnesses from a list provided by Baldwin’s attorneys. The judge wrote that the special prosecutor read a letter from Baldwin’s side during the proceedings, and that jurors also were allowed to question witnesses.

On the afternoon of Oct. 21, 2021, Hutchins, Baldwin, Souza and about a dozen other crew members were gathered in a rustic church at Bonanza Creek Ranch, south of Santa Fe, to prepare for an upcoming scene. Assistant director David Halls, who was the on-set safety coordinator, handed the gun to Baldwin, declaring that it was “cold,” meaning there was no ammunition inside, according to numerous witnesses.


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