Judge denies Alec Baldwin's request to drop charges over evidence issue

 July 1, 2024

The judge in Alec Baldwin's involuntary manslaughter trial denied his request to dismiss the charges based on the alleged destruction of exculpatory evidence.

Baldwin's lawyers claimed that the FBI impaired the actor's right to a fair trial by destroying the handgun at the center of the case during forensic testing. But the judge sided with prosecutors in a Friday ruling, setting the stage for a trial next week.

Baldwin has long denied any wrongdoing in the tragic shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The crew worker was killed in October 2021 when a prop gun that Baldwin was handling fired a live bullet.

Alec Baldwin trial twist...

The case has taken a winding path, with prosecutors previously dismissing charges only to refile them in January upon further analysis of the revolver.

In the latest twist, Baldwin's lawyers tried to have charges dropped by citing the FBI's forensic testing, which involved striking the gun with a mallet.

Baldwin has denied pulling the trigger, but investigators say that the gun could not have gone off otherwise. According to Baldwin's attorneys, the FBI's testing destroyed the firearm, rendering crucial evidence unusable.

The FBI "understood that this was potentially exculpatory evidence and they destroyed it anyway," Baldwin's attorney, John Bash, said during a hearing last week.

"The prosecution denied the criminal defendant the opportunity to see it, to test it," Bash added. "It's outrageous, and it requires dismissal."

Judge shuts it down

In a ruling Friday, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer sided with prosecutors, all but ending Baldwin's efforts to avoid going to trial.

The judge agreed with prosecutors that the gun has no exculpatory value, since the firearm's original condition can still be determined in other ways. She rejected the defense's claim that FBI agents damaged the gun in bad faith.

While Baldwin "contends that an unaltered firearm is critical to his case, other evidence concerning the functionality of the firearm on Oct. 21, 2021, weighs against the defendant’s assertions,” the judge found.

Prosecutors have argued that the gun's parts are still available, and that Baldwin admitted to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigators that the gun had "no mechanical defects."

The movie's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter back in April. Baldwin's trial will begin next Tuesday, July 9 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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