Judge: District attorney can't be co-counsel in Baldwin case
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico judge said Santa Fe's district attorney shouldn't serve as co-counsel in the manslaughter case against actor Alec Baldwin and a weapons supervisor in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer during a 2021 movie rehearsal. Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer on Monday said the district attorney should either lead the case on her own or turn it over entirely to another prosecutor.
Baldwin and movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed have pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and fines.
Hutchins died shortly after being wounded Oct. 21, 2021, during rehearsals at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe. Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding the director, Joel Souza, on the set of the Western movie “Rust.”
District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies is regrouping after the resignation of special prosecutor Andrea Reeb in the wake of missteps in the filing of initial charges against Baldwin and objections that Reeb's role as a state legislator created conflicting responsibilities.
Carmack-Altwies has been preparing to appoint a new special prosecutor and also guide the complex case as co-counsel. But a defense attorney for Gutierrez-Reed objected to the arrangement, arguing it would be illegal under New Mexico law and fundamentally unfair to a 25-year-old defendant with limited financial resources.
Marlowe Sommer, the judge, said Monday during a court hearing by videoconference that the district attorney had misread key provisions of state law in assembling a team to prosecute the case.
“Basically, what I’m ruling, Ms. Carmack-Altwies, is that you are going to use (the law) in the way I’ve interpreted it, which means that you may not co-counsel, or you stay the course and not use a special prosecutor and prosecute it on your own,” Marlowe Sommer said.
Baldwin's attorneys did not intervene in Monday's arguments. A weekslong preliminary hearing in May will decide whether evidence against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed is sufficient to proceed to trial.
Carmack-Altwies has several days to respond to the judge's ruling.
The district attorney said her agency is contending with a shortage of staff attorneys and that a new special prosecutor will need her help in getting up to speed on the case quickly. She also said her continued involvement as co-counsel would provide an extra measure of accountability as an an elected prosecutor to political constituents.
Defense Attorney Jason Bowles said the district attorney was unfairly exceeding her authority.
“We are representing Hannah Gutierrez-Reed — she is a 25-year-old female who does not have all of those resources and does not have a war chest,” Bowles said. “And the state is essentially saying we get to put all this money together, a special taxpayer appropriation, to go after not only Mr. Baldwin, but also Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. That’s not what the statute was designed to do.”