“The gun Alec Baldwin used in the shooting that killed Halyna Hutchins has not been destroyed by the state,” asserts New Mexico First Judicial D.A. spokesperson Heather Brewer to Deadline today. “The gun is in evidence and is available for the defense to review,” she adds.
Earlier Thursday, Baldwin attorney Alex Spiro announced in a virtual hearing in the criminal case that the 1880s prop gun that contained the live ammo that Hutchins and wounded Rust director Joel Souza was “destroyed by the state.” The shocker of a statement went unchallenged and basically unacknowledged by Judge Mary Marlow Sommer, D.A. Mary Carmack-Altwies and others.
Now the D.A.’s office is attempting to clarify, with a little tea leave reading of their own.
“The defense’s unexpected statement in the status hearing today that the gun had been destroyed by the state may be a reference to a statement in the FBI’s July 2022 firearms testing report that said damage was done to internal components of the gun during the FBI’s functionality testing,” spokesperson Brewer postulated. “However, the gun still exists and can be used as evidence.”
Made public in August last year, the FBI report not only noted the mangling of the gun in question at the time, but also refuted Baldwin’s repeated assertions that he did not pull the trigger on the gun during the rehearsal on the indie Western. A preliminary examination a.k.a. minitrial set for early May could shed more light on the damaged and destroyed gulf between prosecutors and the defense.
PREVIOUSLY, 3:13 PM: The gun that killed Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021 has been “destroyed,” a lawyer for Alec Baldwin revealed Thursday.
Treated as almost an aside in a virtual hearing in the criminal case, attorney Alex Spiro told Judge Mary Marlow Sommer that the defense team recently learned that the 1880s prop gun that fatally shot Hutchins and wounded Rust director Joel Souza on the set of the indie Western is basically no more.
“The court, I don’t think is aware of this point, but I think I should tell the court that the firearm in this case, that’s a great subject of it, was destroyed by the state,” said Spiro, the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan lawyer. “So, that’s obviously an issue and we’re going to need to see that firearm, or what’s left of it.”
Neither Sommer nor Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies responded to Spiro’s statement about the gun. With assertions from his lawyer that the absent Baldwin “wanted his day in court,” the brisk session moved on to setting dates for future hearings.
Baldwin’s defense team, the D.A.’s office and the attorney for co-defendant and ex-Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed did not respond to request for comment from Deadline on Spiro’s statement.
It is unclear whether the potentially hyperbolic Spiro was referring to damage that the gun suffered during FBI testing in the investigation of the tragedy on the Rust set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch. That testing resulted in the internal portions of the gun cracking and more, the bureau said. Released in August 2022, the FBI’s forensic report also stated that accidental discharge testing determined the .45 Colt (.45 Long Colt) caliber F.lli Pietta single-action revolver needed a trigger pull to fire.
Baldwin told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in a primetime interview soon after the October 21, 2021 death of Hutchins and has insisted on other occasions that he did not pull the trigger of the gun.
What is clear is the pivotal role as evidence the gun could play in the upcoming two-week preliminary examination set to start May 3 in the Land of Enchantment. If the judge agrees during that the prosecution has a strong enough case, the matter will move on to a formal trial later this year.
Following the release of an FBI-assisted investigation by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office last November, Baldwin and Reed in January were formally charged by prosecutors with two counts of involuntary manslaughter over the killing of Hutchins.
With still no indication of how live ammo got on the set of the $7 million-budgeted indie Western, those charges initially included an enhancement that came with a mandatory five-year prison stint if Baldwin and/or Reed were found guilty. Under protest from the defendants’ attorneys that the charge was “unconstitutional,” Carmack-Altwies backtracked and dropped that enhancement on February 20.
In that context, the preliminary examination starting in early May, which is a minitrial in all but name, will see prosecutors put forth the gist of their case, as well as call witnesses from an already released list of 46 individuals including law enforcement officials, Rust crew members, and Souza and first assistant director David Halls, the latter of whom struck a plea agreement with the D.A. earlier this year. Also on that list is Halyna Hutchins’ husband, who settled a wrongful death suit with Baldwin and Rust producers last year and is to serve as an executive producer on the resurrected production of the indie Western
Noting that they had just received an email on their discovery requests, Baldwin’s NYC-based team asked for confirmation from prosecutors on who would actually be called as witnesses for the preliminary examination. “So we can make sure Mr. Baldwin has a fair opportunity to prepare for this, that the state identify the actual subset of witnesses that they intend to call,” Spiro said of the “roadmap” he wanted. “That will also allow us to notify and subpoena the necessary witnesses that we need, that they’re not calling or that we need to answer some of these allegations.”
Over some rebutting from Carmack-Altwies, who was suffering from technical glitches throughout today’s Google Meets-held hearing, Sommer agreed and set an April 17 deadline for prosecutors to provide their true witness list for the preliminary examination.
Before that, the participants will meet March 27 for a hearing on Baldwin’s and Reed’s motions to disqualify special prosecutor Andrea Reed. The defendants want the D.A.-appointed Reed removed from the case because of her dual role as a recently elected GOP New Mexico legislator. Carmack-Altwies has argued in recent court filings that there is no conflict of interest involving Reed, a former Ninth Judicial D.A.