NATIONAL NEWS

Alec Baldwin arrives at courthouse for pretrial hearing over fatal shooting of cinematographer

Jul 8, 2024, 9:42 AM

FILE - This aerial photo shows part of the Bonanza Creek Ranch film set in Santa Fe, N.M., Oct. 23,...

FILE - This aerial photo shows part of the Bonanza Creek Ranch film set in Santa Fe, N.M., Oct. 23, 2021. Prosecutors are preparing to present evidence to a grand jury against Alec Baldwin in the fatal 2021 shooting of a cinematographer on the set of the Western movie "Rust" in New Mexico. A grand jury did not take up the case Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, and a decision on whether to revive criminal charges against Baldwin still could be weeks away. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

A New Mexico judge is setting the table for the involuntary manslaughter trial of actor Alec Baldwin, who arrived at court Monday over a fatal shooting on the set of a Western movie.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer will consider an array of requests from prosecutors and defense attorneys that could restrict what evidence, testimony and court arguments are heard by a jury. The pretrial hearing Monday in Santa Fe is expected to last much of the day.

Baldwin took a seat in the courtroom Monday beside a four-person legal team. He thumbed briefly through papers, wearing glasses and close-cropped hair.

Baldwin sat between lead attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, with a yellow legal pad on the table in front of him.

The trial starts July 9 with jury selection and is scheduled to last 10 days.

Last week, the judge cleared the way for crucial firearms experts for the prosecution to testify about Baldwin’s handling of the revolver and whether the gun was functioning properly prior to the fatal shooting.

Defense attorneys have asked the judge to exclude consideration of Baldwin’s secondary role as a co-producer on “Rust,” arguing it’s irrelevant to allegations of negligence, and might confuse jurors. Prosecutors disagree and say it was likely Baldwin’s imposing role as a producer that emboldened him to act recklessly and disregard the safety of others in allegedly flouting gun-safety protocols.

The defense team and prosecutors disagree about Baldwin’s contractual authority as producer over crew members who dealt with weapons and safety.

Prosecutors argue that a state workplace safety investigation, which found serious violations on set, was incomplete, untrustworthy and should be prohibited from the trial.

Baldwin is charged with a single felony count of involuntary manslaughter punishable by up to 18 months in prison if he’s convicted.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on set, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ death and sentenced to 18 months in prison. She is appealing the conviction.

In October 2021, Baldwin was rehearsing a cross-draw maneuver with the revolver when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty and claims the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to point it toward Hutchins, who was behind the camera. Unaware the gun contained a live round, Baldwin said he pulled back the hammer — not the trigger — and it fired.

Baldwin’s attorneys also want to bar discussion at trial of actor Brandon Lee’s death from a fatal shot to the abdomen while filming a scene from “The Crow” in 1993. In that instance, a makeshift bullet was mistakenly left in a gun from a previous scene and struck Lee while filming a scene that called for using blank rounds.

Prosecutors have agreed not to illicit testimony about “The Crow,” but also contend that Baldwin knew about safety risks posed by guns — even when live rounds are not present. Attorneys for Baldwin argue that it was inconceivable that live rounds would wind up on set.

Prosecutors want to exclude a letter signed by crew members that disputes the characterizations of the “Rust” set as chaotic or dangerous prior to the fatal shooting.

Prosecutors also want to exclude from trial the conclusions of the safety investigation into the fatal shooting that places much of the blame on assistant director Dave Halls. Halls has pleaded no contest to negligent use of a firearm and may be called to testify at Baldwin’s trial.

Rust Movie Productions paid a $100,000 fine to resolve violations of state safety regulations that were characterized as “serious” but not willful, under a 2023 settlement agreement. Prosecutors say conclusions of the investigation are easily contradicted by more reliable information.

Baldwin’s attorneys say the report can’t be ruled out as evidence and that state occupational safety officer Lorenzo Montoya should be allowed to testify at trial.

Another pretrial motion might defuse snipping between the prosecution and defense teams. Prosecutors want the judge to preclude accusations of “prosecutorial misconduct” and “personal attacks.”

Prosecutors also want the judge to exclude evidence and arguments designed to garner sympathy for Baldwin, including indications of remorse or the impact of events on his family, arguing that it has no bearing on determining guilt.

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Alec Baldwin arrives at courthouse for pretrial hearing over fatal shooting of cinematographer