Judge Denies Alec Baldwin’s Bid to Drop ‘Rust’ Shooting Charge, Case Will Go to Trial

Judge denies a motion to dismiss the indictment against Alec Baldwin in the ‘Rust’ shooting case.
Judge Denies Alec Baldwin’s Bid to Drop ‘Rust’ Shooting Charge, Case Will Go to Trial
Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home, as he will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie "Rust," in New York, on Jan. 31, 2023. (David 'Dee' Delgado/Reuters)
Caden Pearson

A New Mexico judge has denied a motion to dismiss the grand jury indictment against actor Alec Baldwin, who faces one count of involuntary manslaughter related to the fatal shooting on the set of the film “Rust,” allowing the case to continue to trial.

Mr. Baldwin’s legal team asserted that the prosecution had “refused to present” nearly any exculpatory evidence to the grand jury, instead providing false and inaccurate testimony and prejudicial instructions.

However, special prosecutors denied these accusations, saying that Mr. Baldwin made “shameless” attempts to evade responsibility. They also pointed out inconsistencies in his statements to law enforcement, workplace safety regulators, and during a televised interview.

In her decision, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer found no evidence of “prosecutorial bad faith” by the prosecution and concluded that the grand jury proceedings adhered to the necessary legal and procedural standards. She also stated that, contrary to the defense’s assertions, the prosecution had not violated the grand jury judge’s instructions.

The judge found that no instruction had been given “to present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury.”

Furthermore, she wrote: “New Mexico law does not require a prosecutor to present exculpatory evidence to a grand jury, or require a grand jury to even consider exculpatory evidence after alerted to its existence.”

The charges against Mr. Baldwin stem from an October 2021 incident on the set of “Rust,” where a firearm discharged, resulting in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Mr. Baldwin, who held the weapon during a rehearsal, asserts that he did not pull the trigger and that the gun misfired. Pleading not guilty in January, he now faces involuntary manslaughter charges at trial in July following the denial of his motion to dismiss.

Mr. Baldwin, a lead actor and co-producer in the film, has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 1.5 years in prison.

In 2023, involuntary manslaughter charges against Mr. Baldwin were dropped, citing constraints on time and evidence, but he was indicted again in January. It was discovered that the firearm Mr. Baldwin was holding may have been altered before the incident and malfunctioned.

A new analysis of the gun last year enabled prosecutors to reboot the case. Mr. Baldwin’s legal team filed its motion to dismiss the indictment in March.

Mr. Baldwin’s attorneys argued that the actor was unfairly targeted by an overly eager prosecutor seeking to indict him in a high-profile case. The defense informed Judge Marlowe Summer that they believed the outcome was predetermined.

The defense focused its arguments on whether the grand jury had been properly informed of their right to hear testimony from Mr. Baldwin’s witnesses. Throughout the grand jury proceedings, they spent a day and a half questioning witnesses who were introduced by the prosecutors.

Mr. Baldwin’s defense team accused prosecutors of misconduct, alleging that they didn’t make his witnesses available to testify, nor presented exculpatory and favorable evidence to the grand jury, and “forced” the grand jury to hear answers from the prosecution’s witnesses instead of Mr. Baldwin’s.

“The State prosecutors have engaged in this misconduct—and publicly dragged Baldwin through the cesspool created by their improprieties—without any regard for the fact that serious criminal charges have been hanging over his head for two and a half years,” they wrote in their March motion to dismiss.

Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was previously found guilty in March of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in state prison. Prosecutors noted the discovery of six live bullets on set, including the one fired from the prop gun held by Mr. Baldwin, for which Ms. Gutierrez-Reed was responsible.