SANTA FE, New Mexico – Special investigators plan to re-indict actor Alec Baldwin in the fatal shooting of a cameraman on the set of a Western film in 2021 and detailed their preparations Tuesday to present new information to a grand jury.
New Mexico-based prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis said they would present their case to the grand jury within the next two months, noting “additional facts” in the shooting on the set of the film “Rust.” Halyna Hutchins came to light.
Baldwin, a co-producer on the film, was pointing a gun at Hutchins during a rehearsal in a rustic chapel on a movie-set ranch near Santa Fe when the gun went off on October 21, 2021, killing the cameraman and wounding director Joel Souza.
“After extensive investigations over the past few months, additional facts have come to light that we believe establish Mr. Baldwin as criminally guilty in the death of Halyna Hutchins and the shooting of Joel Souza,” Morrissey and Lewis said in an email. “We believe the appropriate course of action is to allow a panel of New Mexico citizens to decide from here whether Mr. Baldwin should be held for criminal proceedings.”
They declined to elaborate on the additional information they might present to the grand jury.
Baldwin said he pulled back the hammer – but not the trigger – and fired the gun.
Baldwin’s lawyers said the prosecution’s latest move was misguided.
“It is unfortunate that a terrible tragedy has led to this misguided prosecution. We will answer all charges in court,” Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro said in an email.
Special prosecutors initially dismissed a manslaughter charge against Baldwin in April, saying they had been informed that the gun may have been modified before the shooting and was malfunctioning. They later changed their minds and considered whether to re-file charges against Baldwin after receiving new analysis of the weapon.
The latest weapons analysis by ballistics and forensic testing experts based in Arizona and New Mexico relied on spare parts to reassemble the weapon fired by Baldwin – after parts of the handgun broke during previous testing by the FBI. The report examined the weapon and the marks it left on a spent cartridge and concluded that the trigger must have been pulled or pulled.
The analysis, conducted by Lucien Haag of Forensic Science Services in Arizona, found that while Baldwin repeatedly denied pulling the trigger, “given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger must have been depressed or squeezed sufficiently to cause it to fully cock.” or to release the withdrawn hammer.” of the evidence revolver.
A previous FBI report on the agency’s analysis of the weapon found that, as is common with firearms of this design, it could go off without pulling the trigger if force was applied to a decocked hammer – such as by dropping the weapon .
The only way testers could get it to fire was to hit the gun with a hammer while the hammer was down and resting on the cartridge, or to pull the trigger while the gun was fully cocked. The weapon eventually broke during testing.
Authorities have not specified how live ammunition on set ended up in the .45-caliber revolver, which was made by an Italian company that specializes in 19th-century reproductions.
Film set gun supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence in the case. Her trial is scheduled to begin in February.
In March, Rust deputy director and safety coordinator David Halls claimed he had no objection to unsafe handling of a firearm and received a suspended sentence of six months probation. He agreed to cooperate with the investigation into the shooting.
In the reopened case against Baldwin, first reported by NBC News, a grand jury would “determine whether probable cause exists to commit Baldwin on criminal charges,” special prosecutors said.
Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor who provides legal commentary as head of West Coast Trial Lawyers in Los Angeles, said prosecutors reserved the right to reopen the case “without prejudice” by dismissing the charges and he would be surprised if A grand jury would not bring charges.
Unlike a jury trial, where guilt must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard for potential grand jury indictments is a lower finding of “probable cause,” Rahmani said.
“It’s just a one-sided presentation from prosecutors,” he said.
The 2021 shooting led to a series of civil lawsuits centered on allegations that the defendants were negligent in safety standards. The cases included wrongful death lawsuits filed by members of the Hutchins family. Baldwin and other defendants denied allegations that they were lax in their safety standards.
Rust Movie Productions has paid a $100,000 fine to federal workplace safety regulators following a damning account of safety failures and violations of standard industry protocols. That included testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before the fatal shooting.
Filming on “Rust” resumed this year in Montana under a deal with the cinematographer’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, that named him executive producer.
AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report from Los Angeles and Susan Montoya Bryan from Albuquerque, New Mexico.