Judge denies Alex Baldwin's motion to dismiss 'Rust' shooting case due to damaged firearm

A judge on Friday rejected Alex Baldwin’s latest attempt to dismiss his involuntary manslaughter case, allowing the trial against the actor for the fatal shooting of a “Rust” cinematographer to proceed in less than two weeks.

Baldwin’s lawyers had asked a New Mexico judge to dismiss the case because the gun that killed cinematographer Helena Hutchins on the set of the 2021 film “Rust” was damaged during forensic testing at an FBI lab.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.Sven Studios via Reuters

John Bash, a lawyer representing Baldwin, said during a motion hearing Monday that the gun was key evidence in the case. Bash said the government's “disgraceful” destruction of the gun violated Baldwin's rights and denied Baldwin's lawyers the opportunity to examine the gun in its original condition and present a proper defense.

“We can never use our expert to examine the original condition of that firearm,” Bash said. “It's not fair that a criminal defendant doesn't get that opportunity.”

Prosecutors said the gun was “unfortunately damaged” during the FBI investigation but that the damage did not deprive Baldwin of a fair trial.

In a written ruling Friday, Judge Mary Marlow Sommers cited among other reasons for denying the motion based on the argument that Baldwin and his team “provided no evidence other than speculation and conjecture” that the unrepaired gun could exonerate him.

“Evidence of a modification does not make an unaltered firearm potentially useful evidence without an explanation of how additional testing with the modification could exonerate the defendant”, the judge wrote, concluding that the gun did not meet “the relatively low standard of potentially useful evidence” and that he did not find that the state “acted in bad faith in altering the firearm.”

However, the judge ruled that the prosecution must make “full disclosure to the jury of the destructive nature of the firearm test, the harm that resulted, and its relevance and significance.”

The decision opens the way for jury selection in the case in July.

Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

His team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The set of “Rust” at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, NM on October 23, 2021.J.C. Hong/AP File

In a previous attempt to have the case dismissed, Baldwin’s defense team argued that prosecutors failed to present key evidence during grand jury proceedings.

Hutchins was killed on October 21, 2021, on the set of the movie “Rust” when a live cartridge from a .45-caliber Colt prop revolver discharged into Baldwin’s hand, killing him. Director Joel Souza was also injured in the shooting. Baldwin has said in interviews that the gun went off without the trigger being pulled.

In March, the film's armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the cinematographer's death.

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