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Judge Will Issue Friday Ruling on Baldwin Case

If not dismissed, jury selection will begin July 9

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First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer will issue a written order by Friday regarding Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin’s remaining motion to dismiss the involuntary manslaughter charge against him for the Oct. 21, 2021 fatal on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Last Friday, Sommer denied motions from defense attorneys: to exclude state witnesses; to dismiss the case on the grounds of failure to state a criminal offense; and for use immunity for Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed from the state. The hearing continued Monday following technical difficulties for one of the witnesses.

The remaining motion involves defense’s request to dismiss the case due to destruction of evidence, specifically the gun Baldwin used on set. During arguments Monday afternoon, defense attorney John Bash described prosecutors’ actions throughout the case to be “some of the most egregious conduct” he’s ever seen. He argued defense should have been able to examine the internal parts of the gun or at least see photographs.

“The idea of criminal prosecution is in a sense that the cards are stacked against the state, but now they’re stacked against the defense. They got to review the gun, we never will,” Bash said, adding the gun had an exculpatory value—as in it could clear Baldwin of the crime—of which the state was aware based on Baldwin’s own statement that he did not pull the trigger. “Defense counsel had no clue that the state intended to destroy key evidence in the case. The state didn’t care about the defendant’s rights and didn’t notify defense counsel of what they planned to do.”

The defense attorney argued the prosecutors showed “bad faith,” adding that the defense team just recently became aware of what he described as an exculpatory supplemental report from witness Lucien Haag, who owns his own consulting firm based out of Arizona with a specialty in firearms evidence. In that report, Haag—whose testimony began Friday and ended Monday—noted diagonal toolmarks on the sear of the weapon that could be but “not likely” the result of Federal Bureau of Investigations testing. The witness changed his stance on the toolmarks after learning more about how FBI officials conducted the accidental discharge test on the weapon, Haag told the court.

If the case is not dismissed, Bash asked the court for a suppression of all evidence regarding Baldwin pulling the trigger or, alternatively, suppression of examination and testing of the gun.

In response to the arguments raised by defense, Special Prosecutor Erlinda Johnson argued defense attorneys failed to demonstrate the “perceived exculpatory value” of the gun was apparent to law enforcement—a key factor to justify dismissal.

“This gun appeared perfectly fine,” Johnson said. “There seemed to be nothing wrong with it.”

She added that law enforcement “received no request” from defense attorneys to review the gun, and Baldwin’s team still has “other reasonable means” to make their case and ask questions about the gun, including to officers who seized the gun, the FBI official who conducted testing or Haag. The prosecutor called the failure to send the supplemental report from Haag “an oversight,” but contested the idea that it was exculpatory.

“In that report, he did not say there were modifications to this gun. He said there were diagonal toolmarks of an unknown origin. He doesn’t say the FBI testing doesn’t create these,” Johnson added. “That does not equate to bad faith at all whatsoever. That’s a red herring that the defense is bringing before this court.”

Prior to Friday’s recess, Haag told the court after reviewing reports, certain footage and other evidence in the case, the gun seemed to function “as intended and designed by the manufacturer.” FBI lab division forensic examiner Bryce Ziegler also testified, saying prior to the accidental discharge test which consisted of striking the weapon with a rawhide mallet, he conducted several other functionality tests and “there was no apparent damage or modifications that would’ve rendered this firearm unsafe.”

Jury selection for Baldwin’s trial is slated for July 9, while the trial itself will begin July 10. If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in prison.

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