Alec Baldwin Racks Up ‘Rust’ Trial Win; Defendant’s Co-Producer Role Now Not Part Of Involuntary Manslaughter Case

On the eve of Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial for the 2021 killing of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, the multiple Emmy winner just scored a big legal win.

Over arguments from prosecutors, a New Mexico judge has determined Monday that Baldwin’s role as a co-producer on the troubled indie Western cannot be entered as evidence into the July 9 starting trial.

More from Deadline

Baldwin was in court at the defense table when the ruling was announced, as he has been all day.

“I’m having real difficulty with the state’s position that they want to show that as a producer he didn’t follow guidelines and therefore as an actor Mr. Baldwin did all of these things wrong that resulted in the death of Ms. Hutchins because as a producer he allowed these things to happen,” Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer declared today in a pre-trial motions hearing going on right now in Santa Fe.

Hutchins was fatally shot, and Rust director Joel Souza was injured on October 21, 2021 after the Colt .45 Baldwin was pointing at the director of photography fired off a live round during a rehearsal at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near the New Mexico city.

In an approximately two-week trial set to begin with jury selection tomorrow, Baldwin, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 18 months behind bars and thousands in fines if convicted. Along with being the star of Rust, Baldwin’s other hat “as a producer made him keenly aware of his responsibilities on set,” stated special prosecutor Erlinda Johnson in her unsuccessful pitch.

“Defendant’s role as a producer emboldened him in the days before October 21, 2021, to engage in conduct that placed others, including Ms. Hutchins at risk, by rushing crew members and making demands for quick changes to scenes, sending crew members scrambling,” Johnson said in an earlier filing. “Mr. Baldwin’s role as producer also made him keenly aware of his duties to observe set safety rules and orderly conduct on set.”

To that, Judge Sommer made her decision in part to avoid muddying the waters for the yet-to-be seated jury.

“The probative value is not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice and confusion to jurors,” Judge Sommer added to special prosecutors Johnson and Kari Morrisey, as well as Baldwin’s Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan defense lawyers Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro.

“I’m denying evidence of his status as a producer.”

Alec Baldwin on ‘Rust’ set
Alec Baldwin on ‘Rust’ set

In both Baldwin’s first 2023 indictment and in his recharging this January, the actor’s place as a working producer on Rust has been a core tenet of the state’s case.

The now muted prosecution route has gone directly to the thrust that Baldwin was likely aware of issues of previous gun discharge and other matter on the set of the $7 million budgeted film. Additionally, the prosecutors have put forward that Baldwin’s producer placement in the film’s hierarchy allowed him to essentially take over Rust and even big foot director Souza on occasion, including on matter of firearm safety and his own training by now incarcerated armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.

All of which is off the table now.

Presently, Baldwin’s defense lawyers, who have failed over and over to get the matter tossed out, are putting a spotlight on allegations that the prosecutors have not been “timely” in handing over certain documents in the discovery process. Admitting it is unlikely the case will be dismissed over this at this late stage, the defense want the evidence in question kept out of the trial. “You are essentially asking for a continuance,” an irritated Judge Sommer responded before giving the parties an hour Monday to come up with a solution.

Expected to be in court every day of the trial, Baldwin is also up against several civil cases in California and New Mexico courts related to Rust and the tragic shooting on the movie’s set.

As well, with the Land of Enchantment pulling over $1.6 million in tax incentives that Rust had been awarded, the deal that Baldwin and fellow producers made with widower Matthew Hutchins to end his wrongful death suit may now be in jeopardy. The funds from those tax incentives were to be used in part to pay Hutchins as part of an October 2022 settlement — payments that are long overdue, according to those in the know.

Gutierrez-Reed was sentenced on April 15 to 18 months in a New Mexico state prison after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on March 6 for the live round that ended up on the seemingly chaotic Rust set. The 27-year-old daughter of legendary movie gunman Thell Reed is appealing her sentence and trying to get early release.

Gutierrez-Reed is on the state’s witness list, though it is unlikely they will get much from her as the ex-armorer invoked her 5th Amendment rights repeatedly during a pre-trial interview for the Baldwin case.

Rust the movie was resurrected early last year and completed filming in Montana with Baldwin and Souza returning as star/producer and director respectively. Finished for months, the film has not been picked up by any buyers so far.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.