‘Rust’ Trial: Jurors Won’t Hear About Alec Baldwin’s Role as a Producer

SANTA FE, N.M. — In a win for Alec Baldwin, a judge has ruled that jurors at his manslaughter trial will not hear evidence of his status as a producer on “Rust.”

Baldwin appeared at a pre-trial hearing on Monday, the day before jury selection is set to begin. He is accused of negligently shooting “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021.

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Opening statements will be held on Wednesday. The judge’s ruling means the trial will focus on Baldwin’s conduct as an actor, and make it harder for prosecutors to blame him for systemic failures on set.

The defense had argued that any suggestion that Baldwin was “the boss,” and therefore bore extra responsibility for safety, would confuse the issues in the case.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer agreed.

“I am denying evidence of his status as a producer,” the judge ruled.

The judge also said she would exclude video evidence of Baldwin yelling at the crew or rushing the crew, saying that it does not shed light on the key question of the actor’s alleged negligence.

“None of that is relevant,” she said.

She said she will allow prosecutors to show video of Baldwin using his gun on set. Prosecutors have argued that those videos show Baldwin acting in a cavalier manner, cocking and decocking the gun for no reason, firing blanks in the direction of the crew and firing a blank after the director called “cut.”

The prosecution also intends to use the videos to prove that Baldwin’s gun was working properly before the shooting. The defense has suggested that the gun may have misfired, possibly because of modifications prior to the shooting.

Baldwin is charged with recklessly pointing the gun at Hutchins and pulling the trigger. Prosecutors have also noted that he did not take the opportunity to check the gun beforehand to make sure it did not contain a live round.

Armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed mistakenly loaded a live bullet into the gun, which killed Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has said that he was a “creative” producer on the film, giving him input on the script and casting, but not giving him oversight of the crew or the film’s finances.

Many of the crew members on “Rust” have cited an overall lack of safety on set, which they attributed to the low budget, poor hiring practices, and failure to address safety complaints. In light of the judge’s ruling, it will be harder for prosecutors to hold Baldwin accountable for any of those issues.

Prosecutors had also sought to tell jurors that Baldwin ignored safety advice when “Rust” resumed filming in the spring of 2023. A safety adviser, Paul Jordan, has said that Baldwin insisted on riding a horse at full speed, even after he was told it was dangerous. The judge excluded that testimony as well.

The judge has sought to limit the trial to eight court days, which would set it to finish on July 19.

Baldwin, 66, wore a suit and tie and dark glasses. Seated at the defense table, he paid close attention to the daylong hearing. He walked to and from the courtroom with a limp. His attorney, Luke Nikas, said that he had had a hip replacement.

Gutierrez Reed was convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter, and is now serving an 18-month sentence. If convicted, Baldwin would likewise face up to 18 months in prison.

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