SANTA FE, NM — A New Mexico judge told lawyers to “stay on track” on charges, including manslaughter, against film armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed during the shooting death of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin, and the defense on Tuesday refused his lawyer’s request to drop the charges.
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer’s decision during the online trials sets the stage for lengthy evidentiary hearings to begin next week on charges of manslaughter and falsification of evidence. Gutierrez-Reed is the only remaining defendant in the shooting murder of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during rehearsal on October 21, 2021.
In April, prosecutors dropped charges against Baldwin, who pointed a gun at Hutchins when it exploded, killing him and injuring director Joel Souza. This left Gutierrez-Reed as the only remaining defendant in the case. If found guilty, he will face up to three years in prison.
An attorney for Gutierrez-Reed unsuccessfully argued on Tuesday that the case was compromised earlier this year due to changes in the prosecution team, sloppiness in the evidence, and public statements by prosecutors that could interfere with the right to an impartial jury.
Sommer denied the allegations and sided with prosecutors, who urged the court to proceed with a preliminary hearing to decide whether the evidence was sufficient to go to trial.
Prosecutors said re-charges could be filed against Baldwin until further investigation, including an ongoing independent review by a firearms expert. The expert examines the gun fired in the incident and other weapons and ammunition seized on the set.
Authorities have yet to determine how actual ammunition got into the .45-caliber pistol, made by an Italian company specializing in 19th-century reproductions.
Baldwin said the gun was fired accidentally after he followed the instructions to point it at Hutchins behind the camera. He said he pulled the hammer back but didn’t pull the trigger and the gun was fired.
In April, prosecutors commissioned additional weapons tests to investigate whether the gun’s hammer had been deliberately altered.
“We don’t have any firearms reports yet, although they said it would be coming soon. “I hope to have it by the end of the week,” special prosecutor Karl Morrissey said on Tuesday. “Mr Baldwin and the causality problems with the firearm’s functionality do not create causality problems for Ms Gutierrez. This is our legal view.”
An August FBI report on the agency’s analysis of the weapon found that, as is common with firearms of this design, it can be fired without pulling the trigger when force is applied to an unloaded hammer—for example, dropping the gun.
The only way testers could fire it was to hit the pistol with a mallet with the hammer down and resting on the cartridge, or pull the trigger when fully armed. The gun was eventually broken during testing.
Separately, prosecutors withdrew a motion not to publicly disclose the name of a witness while pursuing charges against Gutierrez-Reed of falsifying evidence.
Prosecutors say a witness is prepared to testify that Gutierrez-Reed gave him a small bag of narcotics after returning from an interview at a police station, despite concerns of being harassed or blacklisted in the entertainment industry.
“He has agreed not to apply a protection order,” Morrissey said of the witness.
Defense attorney Jason Bowles described the accusation of falsifying evidence as a vindictive attempt by prosecutors to “characterize assassination.”
In March of this year, “Rust” safety coordinator and deputy director David Halls filed no appeal on charges of unsafe use of a firearm and received a six-month suspended sentence.
He has agreed to cooperate in the investigation of the fatal shooting and is listed as a possible witness at the evidentiary hearings next week to decide whether the case can make its way to court.
Filming of “Rust” resumed in Montana in April as part of a deal with the cinematographer’s widow, Matthew Hutchins, making him an executive producer.