Alec Baldwin’s case is on track for trial in July as judge denies request to dismiss

Alec Baldwin’s case is on track for trial in July as judge denies request to dismiss
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SANTA FE, NM — A court ruling on Friday sent an involuntary manslaughter case against Alec Baldwin back to trial in early July, as a judge denied a request to dismiss the case based on complaints that key evidence was damaged by the FBI during forensic examination.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer sided with the prosecutors and denied a motion to dismiss the case.

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Defense attorneys had argued that the gun used in the fatal shooting was badly damaged during FBI forensic testing before it could be examined for possible modifications or problems that could exonerate the actor-producer. The ruling clears one of the last hurdles before prosecutors can take the case to trial.

During a rehearsal on the set of the 2021 Western film “Rust,” Baldwin pointed a gun with camerawoman Halyna Hutchins when the revolver went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza. Baldwin has maintained that he pulled back the gun’s hammer, but not the trigger, and has pleaded not guilty.

The FBI conducted an accidental discharge test on the weapon by striking it from different angles with a raw hammer, which eventually broke the weapon. Prosecutors plan to present evidence at trial that they say shows the gun “could not have gone off without a pull of the trigger” and that it was functioning properly before the shooting.

Baldwin has been charged twice in Hutchins’ death. Prosecutors dismissed an earlier charge but refiled it after receiving a new analysis of the revolver Baldwin had identified at Hutchins.

Gunmaker Hannah Gutierrez-Reed from “Roest” is serving an 18-month prison sentence on a conviction for involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting, while she appeals the jury’s verdict.

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Marlowe Sommer said the destruction of internal components of the firearm “is not very detrimental” to a fair trial.

While Baldwin “argues that an unaltered firearm is critical to his case, other evidence regarding the functionality of the firearm on October 21, 2021, weighs against the defendant’s claims,” the judge wrote.

Sheriff’s detectives initially sent the revolver to the FBI for routine testing, but when an FBI analyst heard Baldwin say in an interview with ABC TV that he had never pulled the trigger, the agency told local authorities they could conduct a test for an accidental shot, although it could damage the weapon.

Told by a team of investigators to go ahead, the FBI tested the revolver by hitting it from different angles with a raw hammer. One of those blows broke the weapon’s firing and safety mechanisms.

The defense says the “outrageous” decision to continue with the tests may have destroyed exonerating evidence.

Prosecutors said it was “unfortunate” that the gun broke, but it was not destroyed and the parts are still available. They say Baldwin’s attorneys still have the opportunity to defend their client and question the evidence against him.

Several hours of testimony about the gun and forensics during online hearings in recent days provided a dress rehearsal for Baldwin’s possible trial. Attorneys for Baldwin conducted lengthy and in-depth cross-examinations of the lead detective, an FBI forensic firearms examiner and the Attorney General’s Office’s independent weapons expert, Lucien Haag.

The prosecution plans to present evidence that it says shows the firearm “could not have gone off without pulling the trigger” and that it was functioning properly before the shooting.

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Since the shooting in 2021, the filming of “Rust” has resumed but moved to Montana under an agreement with Hutchins’ husband, Matthew Hutchins, which made him executive producer. The completed film has not yet been released to the public.

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