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New Mexico judge rejects request for new testimony from gunsmith in Alec Baldwin trial – Monomaxos

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — A New Mexico judge on Friday rejected a request to use immunity to compel the testimony of a film-set gunsmith in the manslaughter trial of actor Alec Baldwin, who shot and killed a cameraman during rehearsals for the western “Rust.”

Weapon Master Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was convicted of manslaughter in March for her role in the shooting of Halyna Hutchins on a ranch that served as a film set and sentenced to 18 months in prisonTheir testimony to investigators and occupational safety regulators will likely play a key role in Baldwin’s trial, scheduled for July.

Further testimony could be limited by the gunsmith’s refusal to testify, and Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said Friday that other witnesses could fill most of the gaps if she does not testify. At a pretrial hearing in May, Gutierrez-Reed exercised her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and refused to answer any questions.

“It’s pretty clear that she has no intention of cooperating,” Marlowe Sommer said. “I haven’t heard of anything she could say that someone else couldn’t say.”

However, the judge acknowledged that Gutierrez-Reed could provide new testimony about the weapons training and whether Baldwin fully participated.

Special Prosecutor Kari Morrissey pointed out that the state could call Gutierrez-Reed to testify even without immunity. Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed both oppose attempts to compel them to testify.

Baldwin played a key role in their trial, which focused on gun safety protocols and his authority as co-producer and lead actor in “Rust.”

Gutierrez-Reed appeals against the conviction He was also accused of bringing a firearm to a bar in Santa Fe a few weeks before the fatal shooting.

A lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed said forcing her to testify, even if she were entitled to immunity, would “virtually eliminate” the possibility of a fair trial in the pending gun charge and could hinder her appeals process.

The virtual hearing also created the opportunity for a crew member of the Rust to testify in court. He stated that he had witnessed the shooting from close up.

In a recent pretrial interview, sound assistant Zac Sneesby stated “that he was standing very close to Mr. Baldwin when he shot Halyna Hutchins,” Special Prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson told the court Friday. “Mr. Sneesby specifically said he saw Mr. Baldwin pull the trigger. And as you know, the defense has always held that he did not pull the trigger. Well, now there is an eyewitness.”

During the hearing on Friday, Marlowe Sommer also rejected a motion by the defense to dismiss the case because Baldwin had no reason to believe that the weapon might contain live ammunition and was “subjectively unaware” of the risks.

The court postponed consideration of a second motion to dismiss until Monday, arguing that the firearm was severely damaged during forensic testing by the FBI before it could be examined for possible alterations that could exonerate the actor.

“The government took the most important piece of evidence in this case – the firearm – and destroyed it through repeated and senseless blows with a hammer,” defense attorneys said in court documents. “Government officials knew the firearm would not survive the attack.”

Baldwin’s lawyers point to an as yet unpublished expert analysis that shows the uncertainty about the origin of the “tool marks” on the gun’s firing mechanism. The hearing is scheduled to resume on Monday.

During the fatal rehearsal on October 21, 2021, Baldwin pointed the gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza, who survived. Baldwin says he pulled back the hammer of the gun but did not pull the trigger.

The prosecution intends to present evidence in the trial which, in their view, shows that the weapon “could not have been fired without pulling the trigger” and was functioning properly before the shooting.

At the trial against Gutierrez-Reed An FBI expert testified the weapon was fully functional with security features when it arrived at an FBI lab. The expert said he had to hit the fully cocked gun with a hammer and break it so the weapon could fire without pulling the trigger.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

Marlowe Sommer had previously rejected another motion by Baldwin to dismiss the case on the grounds that the grand jury was able to make an independent judgment on the charges.

Last year, special prosecutors a charge of manslaughter dismissed against Baldwin because they had been informed that the weapon may have been modified prior to the shooting and was not functioning properly. However, after a new analysis of the weapon, they changed their minds and successfully sought an indictment by a grand jury.

___

The spelling of Special Prosecutor Kari Morrissey’s first name has been corrected.



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