Alec Baldwin Loses Second Bid to Throw Out Manslaughter Charge

A New Mexico judge on Friday denied Alec Baldwin’s second attempt to throw out his manslaughter indictment, finding that it should be up to a jury to decide if his recklessness led to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Baldwin is due to face a trial in Santa Fe beginning on July 9. He is accused of negligently pointing a Colt .45 at Hutchins and pulling the trigger during filming of the Western film “Rust.”

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Baldwin’s lawyer, John Bash, argued Friday that the unique circumstances of the case do not rise to the level of negligence required for an involuntary manslaughter charge.

Baldwin and others have said that they were told that his gun was “cold.” Bash argued that the state has conceded that everyone on set believed that the gun was loaded with dummy rounds.

Therefore, Bash argued, Baldwin was unaware of the danger posed by the gun, which in fact contained a live round.

“What they have alleged here is not a crime,” Bash argued. “If he didn’t know of the substantial risk that it had live ammunition in it, he can’t be guilty.”

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer rejected that logic, however, finding that it’s an open question whether Baldwin had enough information to suspect that the gun was loaded.

“There does exist disputed facts before the court that are not capable of dismissal as a matter of law. The disputed facts are properly before the jury,” Marlowe Sommer said. “Involuntary manslaughter talks about the defendant should have known of the danger, and I think that’s really at the core.”

Kari Morrissey, the lead prosecutor, argued that Baldwin did not take the opportunity to check the gun himself, even while other two actors were seen “dry firing” their guns into the ground to make sure they were clear.

She also argued that Baldwin must have known that the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, was inexperienced and incompetent and was not adequately checking firearms.

“His experience in the film industry is absolutely circumstantial evidence that he knew that when she was doing these safety checks, that she wasn’t following the rules,” Morrissey said.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has held that a defendant must have known of a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” of his actions in order to be guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

The standard New Mexico jury instructions, however, state only that the defendant “should have known” of the danger. The instructions also require that the defendant acted with a “willful disregard” of the safety of others.

Baldwin’s lawyers and prosecutors are set to argue another motion for dismissal on Friday afternoon. The defense has sought to throw out the case on the grounds that the state destroyed the gun during testing, depriving the defense of a full opportunity to examine it before trial.

Alternatively, the defense has asked the judge to preclude the prosecution from arguing that Baldwin pulled the trigger.

The judge denied an earlier motion to dismiss due to improprieties in the grand jury process.

The defense filed a fourth motion to dismiss this week due to the prosecutor’s alleged failures to turn over evidence to the defense in a timely fashion.

Also on Friday, the judge denied the prosecutor’s request to immunize Gutierrez Reed for her testimony at the Baldwin trial. Gutierrez Reed has earlier said that Baldwin was not paying attention during firearms training.

She was convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter, and her case is on appeal while she serves an 18-month sentence.

Morrissey sought the immunity in order to prevent her from invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions. The judge denied the request, saying that it appeared that Gutierrez Reed was not going to cooperate regardless.

Without immunity, Gutierrez Reed may still be called to the stand, but would likely assert her right against self-incrimination in response to most questions. Alternatively, she could be declared “unavailable,” which would allow her previous statements to be introduced without violating the hearsay rule.

Update: The court heard testimony on Friday afternoon from three witnesses involved in testing the gun. The hearing is set to resume on Monday afternoon.

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