Judge to rule next week on Baldwin's bid to avoid 'Rust' trial

AFP

A New Mexico judge next week will make a decision on Alec Baldwin's request to have charges dropped against him in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

The actor is trying to avoid an unprecedented Hollywood manslaughter trial for an on-set death.

Baldwin's lawyers had filed motions to dismiss his indictment, alleging prosecutorial misconduct, failure to show the actor committed a crime and destruction of evidence during testing of the gun Baldwin used in 2021 during a rehearsal on the New Mexico set of 'Rust.'

"We need the court to move in and check this abuse of power," Baldwin attorney Alex Spiro said during a virtual court hearing before Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer on Friday, who will preside over Baldwin's case should it reach a trial scheduled to start July 10.

During the at-times contentious hearing, New Mexico state special prosecutor Kari Morrissey denied allegations from Baldwin's lawyer, Luke Nikas, that she hid evidence from the grand jury that indicted Baldwin in January.

Morrissey also said grand jurors were presented with evidence Baldwin showed criminal negligence when he pointed the gun at Hutchins, in violation of industry-wide safety rules.

"The actor has responsibility for the firearms once it is in their hands," Morrissey said.

CHANCE OF DISMISSAL?

Entertainment and business trial litigator Tre Lovell saw a slim chance of dismissal and said Marlowe's delay in ruling was normal.

"If she is inclined to deny the motion and rule for the state, she doesn't want to give the optics that she is favouring the prosecution," said Lovell, adding that he did not expect the actor to be convicted at trial if his attorneys followed the legal pathway laid out in their motions.

Los Angeles criminal and state trial litigator Rachel Fiset said there was a "minuscule" chance of dismissal, and Sommer has to carefully review oral arguments as Baldwin would likely appeal any ruling against him.

"While Baldwin has some strong facts on his side, there is always a risk of conviction - just ask Hannah Gutierrez," said Fiset.

Sommer sentenced "Rust" armourer Hannah Gutierrez to 18 months in prison in April after a Santa Fe jury found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter for loading the live round into the reproduction Colt Single Action Army revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with.

Hutchins was shot with the live round after Baldwin pointed his gun at her as she set up a camera shot. The "30 Rock" actor maintains he did not pull the trigger, an assertion that had become central to the case.

Hutchins died in the first on-set fatal shooting with a live round mistaken for a dummy or blank round since Hollywood's silent era, according to historian Alan Rode.

Hollywood on-set shootings have in the past been settled through civil lawsuits, such as the last fatality in 1993 when Brandon Lee was killed when a blank round dislodged a bullet stuck in a revolver's barrel during filming of "The Crow," according to UCLA film historian Jonathan Kuntz.

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