Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ Criminal Trial Will Go Ahead Next Month, Judge Says

Alec Baldwin will still face a New Mexico jury next month for his involuntary manslaughter trial in the 2021 death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Keeping her promise of earlier this week to issue a ruling by today, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer rejected the latest attempt by the Emmy winning actor’s Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP defense team to get the case dismissed. In this instance, Baldwin’s primary lawyers Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro struck out after arguing in a filing earlier this month that “the law is clear: the government may not knowingly deprive the defense of potentially useful evidence by destroying it.”

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Judge Sommer saw it differently.

“Ultimately …the Court finds and concludes that Defendant fails to establish that the State acted in bad faith when destroying certain internal components of the firearm in the course of the accidental discharge testing,”  she wrote in fairly dense 18-page order released this afternoon.

The New York attorneys, along Albuquerque-based defense lawyer Heath Leblanc, unsuccessfully argued the  evidence motion, as well as another failed dismissal move, with Special Prosecutors Kari Morrissey and  Erlinda Johnson in a virtual hearing with Judge Sommer on June 21 and 24.

Judge Sommer’s decision today shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The New Mexico state judge has repeatedly rebuffed dismissal attempts by the defense. Also, she did warn the all lawyers on June 24 that while they should expect her ruling on June 28, they should also continue to prepare for trial.

With the clock ticking and the prosecution already putting their witness list in the court docket, Baldwin is set to go to trial on July 9. The State v. Alexander Rae Baldwin trial is expected to last about two weeks, with the indie Western star/producer in attendance.

Hutchins was killed and Rust director Joel Souza was injured on October 21, 2021 after the Colt .45 Baldwin was pointing at the cinematographer shot off a live round during a rehearsal at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe.

Within weeks after the tragedy, Baldwin began to insist that while he was holding the gun, he never pulled the trigger. That assertion has been challenged by  the FBI and independent analysis. However, in the seed of the defense’s now failed motion to toss the indictment with prejudice over the state’s destruction of evidence, the Italian-made weapon was smashed up to varying degrees during its numerous examinations.

Recharged with involuntary manslaughter in late January and having entered a not guilty plea quickly afterwards, Baldwin is also up against several civil cases in California and New Mexico courts related to Rust and the terrible shooting on the movie’s set.

On April 15, Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was sentenced to 18 months in a Land of Enchantment state prison after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on March 6. Blamed for the live round that ended up on the already troubled Rust set, the 27-year-old daughter of legendary movie gunman Thell Reed is appealing her sentence. Gutierrez-Reed is also trying to get early release based on allegations that the prosecution withheld evidence related to gun Baldwin had that could have proved beneficial to her. Judge Sommer has not ruled on that yet.

Yet, despite Gutierrez-Reed’s constant evocation of her 5th Amendment rights during a pre-trial interview for the Baldwin case, the imprisoned armorer is on the prosecution’s more that 40-person long witness list for the trial.

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