'Rust' prosecutor, defense face off over special prosecutor

March 28, 2023 02:53 AM AEDT | By Reuters
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By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) - Lawyers for the armorer charged in the New Mexico shooting death of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Monday will ask a judge to throw out a district attorney's request to appoint a new special prosecutor in the case after the last one resigned.

The noon ET (1600 GMT) Santa Fe court hearing is 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 armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is expected to do the same.

In a virtual hearing, Gutierrez-Reed's lawyers Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion on Monday will ask district court judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, who is overseeing the 'Rust" case, to block appointment of a new special prosecutor on grounds Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies is already handling the case.

Carmack-Altwies, who appointed Reeb, has asked Marlowe Sommer for permission to appoint a new special prosecutor given the "magnitude" of the case and her existing workload.

Hutchins was killed and "Rust" director Joel Souza injured when a revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with fired a live round. "Rust" was only the second film on which Gutierrez-Reed worked as chief weapons handler.

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.

Baldwin, who was also a producer on the film, and Gutierrez-Reed face a preliminary hearing on May 3, when Marlowe Sommer will decide whether there is probable cause to try them.

"Rust" first assistant director Dave Halls reached a plea deal for a misdemeanor charge and has a hearing on March 31.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay; editing by Donna Bryson and Bill Berkrot)


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