Alec Baldwin’s Involuntary Manslaughter Trial Will Move Forward After Judge Appears Skeptical About Actor’s Story

The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who in March was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, will not have to testify after the judge refused prosecutors’ request to grant her immunity.

Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office
In this 2022 image from video released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, Alec Baldwin stands in costume and speaks with investigators following a fatal shooting on a movie set at Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office

The involuntary manslaughter trial of actor Alec Baldwin is set to begin early next month, after the presiding judge rejected the defense’s demands to throw out the case. The judge also expressed skepticism about Mr. Baldwin’s arguments that he’s not responsible for the October 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who was killed when a 19th-century revolver Mr. Baldwin was holding fired accidentally. 

On Friday, the New Mexico judge, Mary Marlowe Sommer, did not seem to believe  arguments presented by Mr. Baldwin’s attorneys, noting that an actor is never supposed to point a gun directly at someone regardless of whether it is loaded with live ammunition, blanks, or nothing.

At Friday morning’s hearing at Santa Fe, Judge Sommer rejected the defense’s arguments seeking dismissal of the case, citing rules directing actors not to point a firearm at another person. This means the trial is set to move forward on July 9.

Yet in a significant ruling that was a victory for the defense, Judge Sommer also ruled that the “Rust” armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who in March was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the case and in April was sentenced to 18 months in prison, does not have to testify in the trial of the “30 Rock” star.

The special prosecutors handling the case had said in filings that the “jury should hear all of the information Ms. Gutierrez has regarding Mr. Baldwin, both exculpatory and inculpatory,” adding that both sides would be able to question Gutierrez-Reed.

However, Judge Sommer sided with the defense, which was seeking that Gutierrez-Reed, who did not want to testify, not be granted immunity, saying, “I’m not going to do a mini trial within a trial.

“I haven’t heard of anything that she might testify to that someone else could not testify to,” Judge Sommer said.

Ahead of the hearing, speculation had swirled that testimony from Gutierrez-Reed could be bad for Mr. Baldwin, as she was convicted in the same death and, like Mr. Baldwin, had a key role in the chain of custody of the gun.

Only in an ominous sign for Mr. Baldwin, Judge Sommer also appeared skeptical of some arguments presented by the defense regarding whether Mr. Baldwin could have been reasonably aware of the risks of pointing a gun at someone, even if he thought it was not loaded with live ammunition.

“As an actor he is not supposed to be pointing a gun at someone,” Judge Sommer said, citing rules from the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. “He pulled the trigger when he was pointing a gun that he didn’t need to point.”

The fatal shooting happened on the set of “Rust,” in a church outside Santa Fe, when Mr. Baldwin, in full Western costume and holding the gun, gesticulated toward the director and the cinematographer. The cinematographer Hutchins, a mother of one, was mortally wounded, while the director, Joel Souza, was shot in the arm and survived. Mr. Baldwin maintains he did not pull the trigger, but only pulled back the hammer part way.

Judge Sommer’s statement that Mr. Baldwin pulled the trigger also signals that she is skeptical of Mr. Baldwin’s story. He’s maintained since the shooting that he did not pull the trigger, though forensic evidence has suggested that the gun could not fire if the trigger was not pulled.

Special Prosecutor Kari Morrissey also attempted to poke holes in the defense’s line that the gun was only dangerous because there was live ammunition in it, citing the death of actor Brandon Lee, who was killed accidentally due to a firearm malfunction in the 1993 production of “The Crow.” In that incident, a bullet’s lead tip from a previous scene had stayed hidden in the barrel of a handgun and when a blank was fired, Lee was killed.

Ms. Morrissey also noted that other actors had fired their guns into the ground after other “accidental discharges” occurred during the production of “Rust.”

Judge Sommer refused to dismiss the case against Mr. Baldwin at the hearing, saying that the defense had provided insufficient evidence for dismissal.

The New York Sun

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