Judge denies requests to limit evidence ahead of armorer’s trial in fatal ‘Rust’ shooting

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SANTA FE, N.M. — A New Mexico judge warned special prosecutors and defense attorneys Wednesday that she will not consider any more motions as the court prepares for the involuntary manslaughter trial of the weapons supervisor on the “Rust” movie set when Alec Baldwin fatally shot the cinematographer during rehearsal.

State District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer was stern with her warning during a virtual hearing, saying the start of the trial next week would not be delayed. She considered a series of last-minute challenges by both sides that sought to narrow the scope of evidence that could be considered by jurors.

Defense attorneys for Hannah Gutierrez-Reed had accused prosecutors of compromising a crucial trial witness by handing over text messages about their case to an Albuquerque-based supplier for “Rust” — whom they contend is the source of live ammunition that made its way onto the set in place of dummy ammunition.

Prosecutors acknowledged during the hearing that others, including Baldwin’s attorneys, also would have had access to the communications before they were deleted from a server that was meant to be used by defense attorneys.

Attorney Jason Bowles called the release of the information by prosecutors “cavalier and reckless” and suggested that the fact-finding process had been corrupted and that a key witness was now tainted.

“Out of fundamental fairness, how can a defendant have a fair trial when a chief adverse witness has all the attorney-client texts?” Bowles asked the judge.

In denying the plea, the judge pointed out that Gutierrez-Reed had earlier consented to authorities searching her cellphone and that it was her attorneys who needed to stipulate what, if any, information needed to be excluded from the search. The judge added that she reviewed the texts in question and that they were not material to Bowles’ legal strategy.

The judge did side with the defense in denying a request by prosecutors to prevent jurors from hearing about a scathing report from state regulators about the “Rust” shooting. That report said the production company did not develop a process for ensuring live rounds were kept away from the set and that it failed to give the armorer enough time to thoroughly inventory ammunition.

Prosecutors had wanted the regulators’ conclusions kept out of the trial because it might be used to argue that “Rust” management was responsible for safety failures and not Gutierrez-Reed.

Bowles argued that the report shows there were numerous instances of negligence on the set.

The upcoming trial is expected to revolve around the question of how live rounds ended up on the set. Authorities during their investigation recovered recovered six live rounds, including the round that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.

Special prosecutors say they will present “substantial evidence” at the trial that movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed unwittingly brought live rounds onto the set when she first began to work on the film.

Defense attorneys said during Wednesday’s hearing that they have “plenty of evidence” that it was somebody else who put those live rounds on the set.

Gutierrez-Reed has pleaded not guilty to the involuntary manslaughter charge. If convicted, she could face up to 1.5 years in jail and a $5,000 fine under New Mexico law.

The proceedings against the armorer hold implications for Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer on “Rust.” He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter and could face a trial later this year. Baldwin has said he assumed the gun had only inert dummy rounds inside the weapon that can’t fire and that someone else is responsible.

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