Judge rules alec baldwin’s producer role irrelevant in ‘rust’ involuntary manslaughter trial.

A New Mexico judge ruled Monday that Alec Baldwin’s role as a producer of the Western film “Rust” is irrelevant to the involuntary manslaughter trial regarding the fatal shooting on set. This decision is a significant setback for prosecutors, who had intended to demonstrate Baldwin’s special responsibility as co-producer for the hazardous environment that led to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer expressed skepticism about the prosecution’s attempt to link Baldwin’s producer responsibilities to his actions as an actor. “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 of these things wrong that resulted in the death of Ms. Hutchins because as a producer he allowed these things to happen,” the judge stated. Consequently, she denied the introduction of evidence related to Baldwin’s status as a producer.

Special prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson argued that Baldwin was “keenly aware” of his safety obligations as a producer, aiming to support an alternative theory of guilt beyond negligent use of a firearm. However, the judge was unpersuaded.

Baldwin, who appeared in court with his attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, listened intently and took notes. The trial is set to begin Tuesday with jury selection and is expected to last 10 days.

In a previous ruling, the judge allowed prosecution firearms experts to testify about Baldwin’s handling of the revolver and its functionality before the fatal shooting. However, on Monday, she excluded the summary findings of a state workplace safety investigation that placed much blame on assistant director Dave Halls. Halls, who has pleaded no contest to negligent use of a firearm, may testify at Baldwin’s trial. The prosecution criticized the workplace safety investigation as incomplete and unreliable.

Rust Movie Productions paid a $100,000 fine to settle state safety regulation violations deemed “serious” but not willful. Witnesses from this investigation are likely to testify at Baldwin’s trial. The prosecution will also present graphic autopsy images of Hutchins’ injuries and police video of the immediate aftermath of the shooting, over defense objections.

Baldwin is charged with a single felony count of involuntary manslaughter, carrying a potential sentence of up to 18 months in prison. Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death, is appealing her 18-month sentence.

In October 2021, Baldwin was rehearsing a cross-draw maneuver when the revolver discharged, killing Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. Baldwin has pleaded not guilty, claiming the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to point it at Hutchins, unaware it contained a live round.

The judge barred discussion of previous fatal gun incidents on movie sets, including the death of Brandon Lee during the filming of “The Crow” in 1993. However, she allowed a single reference to the potential lethality of blank rounds.

A letter from crew members disputing characterizations of the “Rust” set as chaotic or dangerous was also excluded from trial. Additionally, accusations of prosecutorial misconduct will be limited to testimony and expert analysis of the gun and FBI forensic testing.

The judge ruled that evidence and arguments aimed at garnering sympathy for Baldwin, including expressions of remorse or impacts on his family, will not be allowed at trial.

Baldwin, a three-time Emmy winner, has remained a prominent figure for nearly 35 years, known for his outspoken liberal views and frequent appearances on “Saturday Night Live.”