Judge in Alec Baldwin’s “Rust” Case Upholds Involuntary Manslaughter Charge Again, Trial to Proceed

New Mexico judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ruled after prosecutors and the defense made arguments at a June 21 hearing

<p>Jim Bennett/Getty</p> Alec Baldwin in 2020

Jim Bennett/Getty

Alec Baldwin in 2020

The New Mexico judge presiding over Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter case upheld the charge against him at a hearing on Friday, June 21, despite two motions his lawyers filed to get it tossed.

The decision comes less than a month after the judge, Mary Marlowe Sommer, previously upheld the charge against Baldwin, denying the defense attorneys' argument that one of the prosecutors gave prejudicial instructions to the grand jury that indicted the star in January.

But before Sommer even heard arguments on that prior motion, Baldwin's lawyers filed two additional motions on May 6. They argued that the case should be dismissed due to the prosecutors’ “failure to allege a criminal offense" and the “destruction of evidence."

Related: Everything to Know About the Rust Shooting Case and Alec Baldwin's Upcoming Trial

Baldwin was holding a prop gun on the New Mexico set of the Western movie Rust in 2021 when it discharged, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. He has insisted he did not pull the trigger and said he did not know how the gun came to contain live ammunition.

Regarding the first motion, John Bash, an attorney for Baldwin, argued at the June 21 hearing that his client shouldn't have been charged with a crime because he had no reason to believe the gun contained live ammunition. "If he didn't know of the substantial risk that it had live ammunition in it, he can't be guilty."

<p>Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office/ZUMA Press Wire Service/Shutterstock </p> Alec Baldwin on the set of 'Rust'

Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office/ZUMA Press Wire Service/Shutterstock

Alec Baldwin on the set of 'Rust'

Prosecutors argued against that, and Sommer ultimately said a jury should decide. "There does exist disputed facts before the court that are not capable of dismissal as a matter of law," she said.

After a recess, Sommer then heard arguments stemming from the defense lawyers' motion to dismiss based on the "destruction of evidence."

Baldwin’s lawyers alleged that when the FBI ran tests on the prop gun that Baldwin was holding, the gun was destroyed. Those tests were conducted to see whether the gun could have discharged even if the trigger hadn’t been pulled. (Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of the weapons on set, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in March for her role in Hutchins’ death.)

Mat Hayward/Getty Halyna Hutchins in 2018
Mat Hayward/Getty Halyna Hutchins in 2018

“Government agents knew that the firearm would not survive their clumsy ‘tests’ intact. They said so explicitly in emails. But at the insistence of prosecutors eager to prove a celebrity’s guilt, they nevertheless blundered ahead without preserving the original state of the firearm through photographs, video or other means; without informing Baldwin or his counsel they were conducting destructive testing; and without any realistic prospect that bludgeoning the gun would reveal whether Baldwin had pulled the trigger on the day of the accident,” Baldwin’s lawyers wrote in their motion, adding “the destruction of potentially exculpatory evidence violates due process.”

Related: Alec Baldwin Is 'Understandably Worried' as His Rust Involuntary Manslaughter Trial Looms (Exclusive Source)

At the hearing, both prosecutors and defense lawyers interviewed witnesses including Santa Fe County Sheriff Corporal Alexandria Hancock, the lead investigator on the case, about matters including ordering testing on the gun, and FBI firearms expert Bryce Ziegler, who conducted testing on the gun.

Ziegler testified that between two and two-and-a-half pounds of force were required to pull the trigger in order for it to fire. But during questioning from Baldwin's side, attorney Alex Spiro zeroed in on the apparent fact, outlined in the gun's user manual, that the trigger could go off on its own when it was in a certain position.

<p>Matt Agudo / SplashNews</p> Alec Baldwin in New York City

Matt Agudo / SplashNews

Alec Baldwin in New York City

Friday's hearing ended without a decision on that second motion. Judge Sommer said a follow-up would be scheduled at 2:30 p.m. local time Monday, June 24 and end at 5:30 p.m. "no matter what."

Four days before the June 21 hearing on the motions to dismiss the charge, Baldwin's attorneys filed yet another motion accusing the prosecutors of misconduct, alleging they withheld evidence. In that motion, they asked for Sommer to dismiss the manslaughter charge.

The judge has not ruled on the latest motion.

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