Alec Baldwin asks judge to dismiss charges in fatal 'Rust' shooting

Alec Baldwin has asked a New Mexico judge to dismiss involuntary manslaughter charges against him in the deadly “Rust” movie shooting, alleging misconduct by prosecutors who have overseen the long-running case.

A grand jury in Santa Fe County indicted Baldwin in January on two counts of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the October 2021 accidental death of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the western movie set. If convicted, the 65-year-old actor could serve up to 18 months in prison.

On Wednesday, Baldwin’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. In the petition, they detailed a series of alleged missteps that they said threatened Baldwin’s constitutional right to receive a fair trial. His criminal trial is set to begin July 10 in a Santa Fe courtroom.

In the motion, Baldwin’s lead attorney, Luke Nikas, accused special prosecutors Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis of conducting a “sham” grand jury proceeding against Baldwin earlier this year. The closed-door hearing occurred on Jan. 18 — just one day before the grand jury panel’s term of service ended. Baldwin’s attorneys said special prosecutors called just seven witnesses during the hearing, and only one was a witness to the shooting. The attorneys also alleged that evidence that favored Baldwin was not presented to the grand jury.

The new allegations come after a series of high-profile mistakes last year by the previous set of prosecutors, including initially charging Baldwin with a criminal count that was not on the books in New Mexico when the fatal shooting occurred. After the first two prosecutors stepped down, Morrissey and Lewis took over the case nearly a year ago.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“State prosecutors have engaged in this misconduct — and publicly dragged Baldwin through the cesspool created by their improprieties — without any regard for the fact that serious criminal charges have been hanging over his head for two and a half years,” Baldwin’s attorneys wrote in the motion to dismiss. “Enough is enough. This is an abuse of the system, and an abuse of an innocent person whose rights have been trampled to the extreme.”

Morrissey was not immediately available to comment.

Earlier this month, Morrissey won a conviction of the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez. A Santa Fe jury found the 26-year-old Arizona woman, who loaded the gun that day, guilty of involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death.

During Gutierrez’s trial, prosecutors introduced evidence that suggested Baldwin was also responsible for the tragedy. In her closing argument, Morrissey told jurors in the Gutierrez case that Baldwin also must answer for his actions.

The tragedy on the set of “Rust” brought added scrutiny to on-set safety, a key concern among Hollywood film crew members. Just hours before the fatal shooting, “Rust” camera crew members had walked off the set, located on a sprawling movie location south of Santa Fe, to protest what they saw as safety concerns. Camera crew members pointed to accidental gun discharges and a lack of nearby lodging.

Because of the exodus of camera crew members, the remaining crew members were running behind that day.

Just after lunch, Baldwin and Hutchins were rehearsing a scene that was meant to be a camera close-up of Baldwin — who was playing a hardened outlaw, Harland Rust — slowly pulling his Colt .45 revolver from his shoulder holster. Baldwin has acknowledged pointing the revolver at Hutchins and cocking the hammer. He had been told the gun was “cold,” meaning it had no live ammunition inside. But the gun contained five so-called dummy rounds and an actual bullet.

Baldwin has long maintained that he did not pull the trigger of his the gun. Hutchins, the cinematographer, was standing two to three feet away when Baldwin’s gun discharged, firing the lead bullet that fatally struck her in the chest. The bullet also injured the film’s director, Joel Souza, who has ecovered from his wound.

A month after the accident, Baldwin told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos: “I didn’t pull the trigger. … I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them.”

Persistent questions about the gun’s condition at the time of the shooting will likely be thorny for prosecutors.

Baldwin’s defense team has suggested the prop gun was faulty and may have malfunctioned, leading to its discharge — a theory that is expected to be a centerpiece of the actor’s defense. His lawyers have pointed to the weapon’s failure during testing to support Baldwin’s recollection of his role in the tragic shooting.

However, ballistics experts — including one who testified for the prosecutors during Baldwin’s grand jury proceeding, have cast doubt on Baldwin’s claims.

An FBI forensic examiner who testified in Gutierrez’s trial said the gun was operational when he received it a few months after the shooting. That analyst, Bryce Ziegler, said he performed a rigorous set of tests, including striking Baldwin’s prop gun several times with a “rawhide mallet” to determine whether bumping or jostling the weapon would result in a discharge. He said he was trying to simulate scenarios for the gun to go off without the handler pulling the trigger.

The gun broke during testing.

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