“Rust” Judge Excludes Baldwin’s Producer Role in Trial

Jury selection will begin Tuesday

Alec Baldwin, pretrial motions

At the request of defense attorneys, First Judicial District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ruled Monday afternoon that state prosecutors cannot introduce evidence pertaining to Rust star Alec Baldwin’s dual role as a producer on the film.

Marlowe Sommer heard arguments on more than a dozen pre-trial motions in the case against Baldwin, who appeared in court for the hearing today and faces an involuntary manslaughter charge in the Oct. 21, 2021 on-set shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

In arguments on the motion, defense attorney Luke Nikas called Baldwin’s role as a producer “irrelevant and highly prejudicial,” adding it would only lead to confusion for the jury.

“The state is trying to hold Mr. Baldwin responsible for what he did as an actor based on what he did as a producer leading up,” Nikas said. “It’s far more prejudicial than probative.”

In response, special prosecutor Erlinda Johnson argued Baldwin’s failure to enforce safety rules as a producer was relevant “to demonstrate to the jury that he is aware of his safety obligations” and to speak to his reckless behavior on set—an argument Marlowe Sommer denied, questioning if it would really help the state’s case in establishing that Baldwin, as an actor, is guilty of the crime.

“I’m having real difficulty with the state’s position that they want to show that as a producer, he didn’t follow guidelines and therefore, as an actor, Mr. Baldwin did all these things wrong that resulted in Hutchins’ death because as a producer he allowed these things to happen,” the judge said. “The probative value is not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice and certainly confusion of issues to the jury. I’m denying evidence of his status as a producer.”

Despite the blow to prosecutors, Marlowe Sommer did rule in their favor to exclude findings from a workplace safety investigation conducted by the state environment department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, as well as a letter signed by Rust crew members that claimed the set was safe. The judge also allowed the state to present images from Hutchins’ autopsy report and police lapel camera footage of immediately after the shooting.

Prosecutors also asked Marlowe Sommer to preclude accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. The judge replied saying the only instances in which defense can bring it up is during testimony and expert analysis of the gun, as well as in relation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s testing that damaged it.

Defense attorneys also sought to prevent state prosecutors from discussing actor Brandon Lee’s death from a blank round while on the set of The Crow in 1993. Marlowe Sommer will allow just one mention of the fact that blank rounds can be fatal.

Jury selection for the trial will begin at 8:30 am Tuesday with opening arguments from the state expected Wednesday. Baldwin maintains he did not pull the trigger. If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in prison.

Nearly three months ago, the judge gave former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed the maximum sentence for her negligent behavior in the same incident. Gutierrez-Reed filed to appeal that determination in early May.

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