Judge Raises Doubts About Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ Manslaughter Indictment

A New Mexico judge on Friday asked a series of skeptical questions of the prosecutor in the Alec Baldwin manslaughter case, suggesting she might decide to throw out the indictment.

Baldwin is scheduled to face a trial in Santa Fe in July for negligently pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and pulling the trigger. In New Mexico, involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

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Baldwin’s defense has asked Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer to throw out the case, arguing that prosecutors failed to make defense witnesses available to the grand jury.

At a hearing on Friday, Marlowe Sommer asked the prosecutor, Kari Morrissey, why she had not made more of an effort to contact those witnesses before the grand jury proceeding.

“Common sense tells me you should have reached out ahead of time,” she said.

The judge also questioned why Morrissey had cut off a witness during grand jury testimony about safety standards on movie sets.

Marlowe Sommer said she would issue a ruling on the defense motion next week. If the judge were to throw out the indictment, the prosecution could opt to file the case again.

Luke Nikas, one of Baldwin’s defense lawyers, argued that the prosecution had violated a court order and deliberately steered the jurors away from exculpatory evidence.

“The fix was in,” Nikas said. “They never intended for the jury to ask for witnesses.”

The hearing lasted for more than two hours. The judge asked a number of pointed questions of Morrissey, and said that the prosecutor was mistaken about the law in at least one respect.

Toward the end of the hearing, Morrissey became heated in responding to the defense arguments, alleging that defense lawyer Alex Spiro had impugned her conduct to the court.

“Everything that he’s saying to you right now is a complete misrepresentation about what has happened,” she said. “And that’s what these people do… I’m not going to sit here and be called a liar.”

The “Rust” case has seen a long series of prosecutorial missteps, though the prosecution was able to obtain a conviction in March of the film’s armorer.

Prosecutors originally charged Baldwin in January 2023, but dropped the case a few months later, after the defense raised questions about whether Baldwin’s gun was working properly. The prosecution also dropped a five-year sentence enhancement after discovering that it was not on the books at the time of the shooting.

Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer, is serving an 18-month sentence at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants, N.M., after being convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter. Gutierrez Reed mistakenly loaded a live bullet into Baldwin’s gun.

In the motion to dismiss, Baldwin’s lawyers argued that prosecutors had subjected him to a long list of abuses. Among other things, they alleged that the prosecution had failed to inform the grand jury of exculpatory information, had leaked information about the grand jury process to the media.

In response, Morrissey argued that Baldwin had repeatedly lied and changed his story about the shooting, and that his lawyers had also misled the prosecution.

Baldwin was offered a plea deal last fall that would have allowed him to accept a misdemeanor charge with no jail time, according to court filings. It appears that Baldwin seriously contemplated accepting the deal.

But the offer was rescinded after Morrissey got wind that Baldwin was participating in a documentary about the case. Morrissey alleged that Baldwin had commissioned the documentary and was pressuring witnesses to cooperate with the filmmakers.

The director, Rory Kennedy, has submitted a sworn statement indicating that Baldwin did not commission the documentary, and had no ownership or editorial control over it.

Baldwin’s defense team had also filed two other motions to throw out the case, which were not argued on Friday. In one, they argue that the gun was destroyed during FBI testing, leaving the defense unable to prove its theory that the gun was malfunctioning at the time of the shooting. In the second, they argue that the allegations, even if true, do not meet the legal standard for involuntary manslaughter.

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