Alec Baldwin’s Role as a Producer Ruled Not Relevant to ‘Rust’ Trial

Alec Baldwin’s Role as a Producer Ruled Not Relevant to ‘Rust’ Trial

A judge in New Mexico ruled on Monday that Alec Baldwin’s role as a producer of the film “Rust” was not relevant to his upcoming trial for involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of its cinematographer in 2021, dealing a setback to the prosecution.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer of the First Judicial District in New Mexico ruled that prosecutors could not argue that Mr. Baldwin’s role as a member of the film’s production team — he was one of its producers in addition to being its leading man — had made him more culpable for the death of the film’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins.

It was a blow to the prosecution, which had sought to make Mr. Baldwin’s role as a producer part of their case. “As the producer he has the power to control safety on set, and there was a tremendous lack of safety on this set,” one of the prosecutors, Erlinda O. Johnson, argued in court earlier on Monday.

Mr. Baldwin’s defense has disputed that, saying that as a member of the production team he was involved in creative matters, but that others had authority over hiring and budgets.

The judge ruled that the prosecution could not present evidence about Mr. Baldwin’s position as one of the film’s producers.

“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 resulting in the death of Ms. Hutchins because as a producer he allowed these things to happen,” Judge Marlowe Sommer said.

Stephen D. Aarons, a veteran defense lawyer in New Mexico, said that Mr. Baldwin’s role as a producer could still have a bearing in some of the upcoming civil cases stemming from the fatal shooting, but not in the criminal one.

“Baldwin was wearing his actor’s hat when the gun discharged, and only in that role may the jury decide any criminal liability,” he said.

Mr. Baldwin appeared in the Santa Fe courthouse for the pretrial motions wearing a suit with a gray striped tie and glasses with thick dark frames. He seemed to pay close attention to the proceedings, taking notes and leaning over to speak with a lawyer.

Mr. Baldwin was indicted by a grand jury for his role in the fatal shooting of Ms. Hutchins, who was killed on Oct. 21, 2021, when a gun he was rehearsing with on the set discharged a live bullet. He has pleaded not guilty, saying he was told the gun did not contain live ammunition. He has also said he did not pull the trigger before the bullet fired, which prosecutors dispute.

Judge Marlowe Sommer also placed limits on which video evidence could be shown to the jury.

She ruled that jurors could be shown videos that prosecutors believe bolster their argument that Mr. Baldwin was reckless while handling guns on set. Prosecutors have said that footage shows the actor with his finger on the trigger when it was not required and using his gun as a pointer to direct crew members.

But the judge said the jury could not be shown videos unrelated to Mr. Baldwin handling weapons; prosecutors had sought to admit a video in which he exhorts the crew to work faster.

“Everything else regarding him yelling at the crew or telling people to hurry up — none of that is relevant,” Judge Marlowe Sommer ordered.

The decision was a partial victory for the defense, which has argued that some of the videos the prosecution intended to introduce were aimed at smearing Mr. Baldwin’s character rather than laying out evidence for his conduct on the day of the fatal shooting.

“Mr. Baldwin swore on set — he cussed — and therefore, what, he committed homicide?” Luke Nikas, a lawyer for Mr. Baldwin, said at Monday’s hearing. “Mr. Baldwin’s not a murderer on the 21st because he swore on the 16th.”

Jury selection is scheduled for Tuesday, with opening arguments very likely to start on Wednesday.

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