New Mexico prosecutors announced on Tuesday that they would bring the case involving Alec Baldwin to a grand jury, citing “additional facts” that have emerged in the investigation of the shooting death that occurred on the set of Rust in 2021.
In a statement, special prosecutors Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis stated that they had uncovered new information during their extensive investigation over the past few months. They believe that Alec Baldwin may have “criminal culpability” in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the injury of director Joel Souza. As a result, they have decided to seek a grand jury’s consideration of potential criminal charges against the actor.
The incident took place during the preparation for a scene on a Western ranch set near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot, and Joel Souza was injured when Baldwin’s Colt .45 revolver discharged. Baldwin has consistently maintained that he did not pull the trigger.
Alec Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, responded to the decision, calling it “unfortunate” and emphasizing their intention to contest the case in court. He stated, “It is unfortunate that a terrible tragedy has been turned into this misguided prosecution. We will answer any charges in court.”
Baldwin had initially been charged with involuntary manslaughter in January after over a year of investigation, but the charges were dropped in April just before a preliminary hearing. The decision to drop the charges was influenced by concerns raised by Baldwin’s defense lawyers about the functionality of the firearm used in the incident.
Subsequently, the special prosecutors sent the gun for further forensic testing. They indicated that Baldwin could face renewed charges if it was determined that the gun was functional.
In August, a report made public confirmed that the trigger had to be pulled for the weapon to discharge.
Hannah Gutierrez, the film’s armorer, is also facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering in connection with the case. Her trial is scheduled for February in Santa Fe, and she could face up to three years in prison if convicted.
The case has faced a series of legal complications and missteps. The initial charges included a five-year sentence enhancement for the use of a firearm, but this enhancement was dropped when it was revealed that the law was not in effect at the time of the shooting.
The case had initially been handled by special prosecutor Andrea Reeb, who resigned after Baldwin’s defense team argued that she could not serve as both a prosecutor and a state lawmaker. Subsequently, Mary Carmack-Altwies, the elected Santa Fe district attorney, withdrew from the case following a judge’s ruling that she could not partner with a special prosecutor.
Carmack-Altwies had previously cited understaffing in her office as the reason for seeking external assistance. In another unfortunate development for the prosecution, an email written by the D.A.’s investigator, Robert Shilling, criticized the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office for their handling of the investigation. This email was inadvertently sent to the defense.
Another setback occurred when the Colt .45 used in the incident was damaged during FBI testing in 2022, leading the defense to argue that the evidence had been compromised.
The decision to present Alec Baldwin’s case to a grand jury marks a significant development in the ongoing investigation. It remains to be seen how the grand jury will respond and whether any new charges will be brought against the actor.