Judge denies Alex Baldwin's plea to dismiss murder charge

Judge denies Alex Baldwin's plea to dismiss murder charge

File photo of actor Alec Baldwin

File photo of actor Alex Baldwin | Photo Credit: Reuters

A New Mexico judge on Friday denied actor Alex Baldwin’s request to dismiss a murder charge against him for the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the film “Rust.”

In his ruling, the judge rejected arguments by Baldwin's lawyers at hearings on June 21 and Monday that the charge should be dismissed because the gun that fired the bullet that killed cinematographer Helena Hutchins was damaged during an FBI examination after her death, preventing his lawyers from conducting their own examination.

Baldwin's trial is scheduled for July.

Hutchins was shot when Baldwin pointed a gun at her while she was setting up a camera on a film set near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The “30 Rock” star has denied responsibility for Hutchins' death, saying the gun went off on its own when he pointed it at the cinematographer and cocked it. He denies pulling the trigger, a claim that has become the center of the case.

“Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez, who accidentally loaded a live round into the revolver involved in the shooting, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced in April to 18 months in prison, the same sentence Baldwin would face if convicted.

Baldwin's legal team said prosecutors had built their case around the unproven hypothesis that the gun was functioning properly and could not have fired without Baldwin pulling the trigger. Baldwin's lawyers argued that the gun had been modified so that it could have fired without the trigger being pulled.

Judge Mary Sommers said in her decision to deny Baldwin's plea that his attorneys could not prove that prosecutors damaged the gun knowing it could prove someone's innocence, nor could they prove they could not obtain “comparable evidence” after the gun was damaged.

Sommer agreed that the gun is a key element in the case, and said prosecutors will need to call witnesses who can show jurors how the gun was damaged and its relevance.

The initial involuntary manslaughter charge filed by prosecutors against Baldwin in January 2023 was dropped after the actor's legal team presented evidence that the revolver had been modified, allowing it to fire without the trigger being pulled, according to a person familiar with the matter.

An independent firearms expert then determined the gun would not fire in the full range without the trigger being pulled.

Carey Morrissey, a veteran Albuquerque criminal defense attorney who was appointed special prosecutor in the Rust case in March 2023, went to the grand jury, which charged Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter for a second time earlier this year.

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