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“Rust“ defense asks judge to block special prosecutor

2023-03-27T16:58:31Z

An image of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died after being shot by Alec Baldwin on the set of his movie “Rust”, is displayed at a vigil in her honour in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S., October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt

Lawyers for the armorer charged in the New Mexico shooting death of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Monday asked a judge to block a district attorney’s bid to appoint a new special prosecutor in the case after the last one resigned.

The motion was the latest effort by defense lawyers to weaken a prosecution beset by legal errors since it filed criminal charges in January against armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and actor Alec Baldwin for the 2021 on-set fatality.

Andrea Reeb, who is a Republican state representative, resigned as special prosecutor in the case on March 15 after Baldwin’s lawyers argued that serving in two branches of government simultaneously was unlawful as it could lead to a conflict of interest.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge and Gutierrez-Reed is expected to do the same.

In a virtual hearing, Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyer Jason Bowles told district court judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, who is handling ‘Rust” cases, that Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies was already on the case as a co-prosecutor and appointing a special prosecutor was a waste of taxpayer funds.

“They can prosecute, they are prosecuting the case,” Bowles said.

Carmack-Altwies, who appointed Reeb, asked the judge for permission to appoint a new special prosecutor given the “massive amounts of time” required for the “Rust” case on top of her office’s existing workload.

“We need extra manpower,” the district attorney said.

Marlowe Sommer told Carmack-Altwies the legal statute underpinning appointment of a special prosecutor called for “good cause” that a district attorney could not take part in a prosecution themselves.

“You cannot use it unless you’re not going to prosecute,” said the judge, who scheduled another hearing for Friday.

Hutchins was killed and “Rust” director Joel Souza injured when a revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with fired a live round.

A more serious count of involuntary manslaughter against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed was dropped after defense lawyers said a law underpinning the charge was passed after Hutchins was killed.

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