Sat. Jul 13th, 2024


Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Samantha Granville
  • Role, BBC News, Los Angeles

A judge has denied a last-ditch effort by Alec Baldwin to dismiss the involuntary manslaughter charge against him in the fatal shooting on the set of his film Rust.

The move comes two weeks before the actor is set to stand trial in New Mexico for the 2021 shooting that left the film’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, 42, dead.

New Mexico District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer denied 66-year-old Baldwin’s bid to have the charge dismissed, saying it must be resolved at trial.

The proceedings are due to begin on 9 July with jury selection.

The Emmy award-winning actor was holding a prop gun that fired during a scene rehearsal on set in Bonanza City, New Mexico, on 21 October 2021 killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

The film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in April after being found guilty on the same involuntary manslaughter charge faced by Baldwin.

In a five-page order released Friday, the judge wrote that “whether the defendant [Baldwin] had a criminally negligent state of mind is a question of fact for the jury to decide” in a trial.

Over the last two and a half years, Baldwin has maintained he did not pull the trigger and does not know how live ammunition ended up in the prop gun on the set of the Western.

Mr Baldwin’s lawyers argued that since the most critical evidence in the case – the firearm – was destroyed the actor should be exonerated.

In 2022, an FBI examiner took a mallet to the weapon as part of an accidental discharge test for their forensic analysis. The test broke internal components of the gun, prohibiting it from staying in the fully cocked position.

Image source, Fred Hayes/Getty Images for SAGindie

Image caption, Halyna Hutchins died at 42 years old after fatally being shot in the Rust shooting

Josh Bash, an attorney for the actor, argued that this testing deprived the defence of a full opportunity to examine the gun in its original condition.

“This is among the most egregious constellation of facts I’ve ever seen,” Mr Bash said at a virtual hearing on Monday.

“They knew it would be destroyed, and they did nothing to preserve the evidence for the defendant.”

“It’s outrageous and it requires dismissal,” he added.

But prosecutors have said that Baldwin’s team still has plenty of evidence for a defence, even without the weapon still intact, as all parts of the gun are still available.

“A review of the evidence in this case leads one to conclude that the exculpatory value of this firearm… is extremely low,” special prosecutor Erlinda Johnson said in the hearing.

Ms Johnson went on to quote an interview that the actor did with investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), saying: “Baldwin himself told OSHA investigators that the gun had no mechanical defects.”

The defence asked that if the judge declined to throw out the case, she should at least not allow any of the technical gun analysis to be presented at trial.

She’s previously denied other motions to dismiss his involuntary manslaughter charge.

Mr Baldwin was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter, but had the charges dropped after the local district attorney’s case fell apart.

Local prosecutors said they gathered additional facts from forensic tests on weapons, and Baldwin was then recharged with a fresh count of involuntary manslaughter in January by a grand jury in New Mexico.

Along with the criminal case, Baldwin is also facing several civil lawsuits, including one brought by Hutchins’ family.

In a negligence legal action, they claim the cinematographer’s death was caused by reckless behaviour.

“The fact that live ammunition was allowed on a movie set, that guns and ammunition were left unattended… and that defendant Baldwin inexplicably pointed and fired a gun at Halyna Hutchins, makes this a case where injury or death was much more than just a possibility – it was a likely result,” the lawsuit reads.

In May, Mr Baldwin and his wife Hilaria announced that they and their seven children would star in their own reality show next year.

Mr Baldwin has not been present in any pretrial hearings, but is scheduled to be in court for the trial next month.




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