‘Rust’ Armorer Doesn’t Have To Testify At Alec Baldwin’s Involuntary Manslaughter Trial, Judge Rules; Actor Fails Again To Get Case Dismissed

Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial next month over the fatal 2021 shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins is still on, a New Mexico judge ruled Friday. Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer also decided that the indie Western’s convicted armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed does not have to testify.

In a sometimes-heated virtual hearing this morning on another failed move by the defense to get the case dismissed, Sommer rejected the prosecution’s motion to have the Rust armorer be a witness with immunity in the trial, which is scheduled to begin July 9.

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“I haven’t heard of anything that she might testify to that someone else could not testify to,” Sommer said today after hearing arguments from Special Prosecutor Kari Morrissey, defense lawyer Heath Leblanc and Gutierrez-Reed’s main attorney Jason Bowles. “I’m not going to do a mini trial within a trial,” the judge added of the prosecution’s contention that they could hold the currently incarcerated Gutierrez-Reed in contempt if she refused to answer questions on the stand.

Gutierrez-Reed was sentenced to 18 months in a New Mexico state prison in April after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The State v. Alexander Rae Baldwin trial is expected to last about two weeks, with the defendant in attendance.

“The jury should hear all of the information Ms. Gutierrez has regarding Mr. Baldwin, both exculpatory and inculpatory,” special prosecutors Morrissey and Erlinda Johnson had stated in filings on the issue. “Counsel for both sides should be permitted to fully cross-examine Ms. Gutierrez.”

“[Gutierrez-Reed] doesn’t want to be cooperative in this case … she does not want to answer the questions,” Bowles told the virtual hearing. It came up today that during a pre-trial interview, Gutierrez-Reed repeatedly asserted her Fifth Amendment privilege at the urging of Bowles. Also facing additional gun charges plus appealing her Rust conviction, Gutierrez-Reed’s reluctancy to participate in the Baldwin trial may be to avoid potential self-incrimination.

Neither Baldwin nor Gutierrez-Reed were present at today virtual hearing.

After the ruling, Bowles told Deadline: “I believe this judge made a very sound decision to avoid mini trials within a trial and denied the State’s motion.” There does exist a possibility the prosecution will call Gutierrez-Reed and question her on matters not covered by Fifth Amendment privileges. In truth, that wouldn’t really be much in this case besides a sideshow at this point.

After a brief break this morning, the hearing resumed with defense lawyer John Bash unsuccessfully pitching that the January 2024 indictment against Baldwin should be tossed for failure to state a criminal offense.

“Under New Mexico law, the state must establish the defendant’s subjective awareness of a substantial risk that his or her actions could cause harm to another person,” Bash told the court. “It’s a subjective standard. The state, and I think we will show this has abjured any ability to show that Mr. Baldwin had a subjective awareness of a risk that the firearm in this case is loaded with live ammunition. Without that essential piece, the state cannot establish the element of the offense.”

Sommer seemed to have a hard time buying the defense’s POV.

“As an actor he is not supposed to be pointing a gun at someone,” she told Bash and the others joining in on today’s hearing, citing SAG-AFTRA rules.

“He pulled the trigger when he was pointing a gun that he didn’t need to point,” the judge noted.

“What Mr. Bash is telling the court which is absolutely false – unless this gun has a live round in it it is complexly harmless,” Morrissey said in her own response. “This gun can only kill someone if it’s got live ammunition in it,” she added, citing the 1993 on-set death of Brandon Lee on The Crow. “Absolutory false, and Mr. Baldwin knew that was false.”

“We have an extraordinary amount of circumstantial evidence that goes directly to this point,” Morrissey added, noting Baldwin was aware that other actors on Rust fired their guns into the ground to make sure that they were safe after other so-called “accidental discharges” occurred during production in October 2021.

Moving briskly through a packed day on the Baldwin case docket, Sommer ruled to deny the defense’s motion that the state’s indictment had not stated an actual criminal offense.

“The court finds that first of all, there does exist disputed facts before the court that are not capable of dismissal as a matter of law,” she told the assembled lawyers. “The disputed facts are probably before the jury,” the judge added, telling the defense that they had not “met your burden.”

The court will return later this afternoon to address other defense motions to have the case dismissed and the trial pulled off the calendar.

In a mixed-bag session, Sommer earlier Friday had denied the defense’s motion to exclude certain witnesses in the matter. The day-long hearing is also looking at further motions by Baldwin’s defense team, such as destruction of evidence, to yet again try have to case dismissed.

Recharged with involuntary manslaughter in late January and having entered a not guilty plea soon after, Baldwin is fighting about half a dozen civil cases in California and New Mexico courts related to Rust and the deadly shooting on the set of the indie Western.

A finished version of Rust, resurrected in early 2023 and completed with filming in Montana, has yet to find a buyer.

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