Alec Baldwin Wants His “Rust” Manslaughter Case Dismissed. A Legal Expert Notes His ‘Strongest Argument’ (Exclusive)

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Still, Emily D. Baker, a lawyer and former L.A. Deputy District Attorney who is not involved in the case, says it’s “unlikely” Baldwin will be successful in having the case dismissed

John Lamparski/Getty Alec Baldwin in 2023
John Lamparski/Getty Alec Baldwin in 2023

As Alec Baldwin’s July trial for involuntary manslaughter approaches, the actor’s legal team is seeking to have his case dismissed.

That is “unlikely” to happen, explains legal expert Emily D. Baker, a lawyer and former L.A. Deputy District Attorney. “It is very rare for grand jury indictments to be dismissed. The prosecution has very, very wide latitude at how they conduct a grand jury.”

But Baldwin, 66, who was indicted in January for his role in the accidental shooting death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of the Western movie in 2021, could find some hope in one of the arguments his legal team made in their March 14 motion, says Baker.

Gotham/GC Images Alec Baldwin in 2018
Gotham/GC Images Alec Baldwin in 2018

Related: Why Prosecutors in the Rust Shooting Case Rescinded a Lenient Plea Deal They Offered Alec Baldwin Last Year

“The strongest argument is the argument that the state did not present the instructions to the grand jury accurately,” she says.

“Those are the types of potential errors that can get things overturned. So if there was error in the way the grand jury got the grand jury instructions, that can be an issue that warrants an indictment getting thrown out,” she continues.

Baker is referring to Baldwin’s lawyers’ claims in their motion to dismiss that special prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey gave “prejudicial” instructions to the grand jury.

Baldwin’s attorneys claimed in the motion that Morrissey told the grand jury “it must find probable cause as to each of the following elements: (1) “The target discharged a firearm during the production of the movie without first verifying the firearm contained no live ammunition and while the firearm was pointed in the direction of another,” (2) “the target should have known the danger involved from the target’s actions,” (3) “the target acted with a willful disregard for the safety of others,” and (4) “the target’s act caused the death of Halyna Hutchins.”

“Morrissey included the italicized language even though she had successfully argued to the Court that Baldwin’s requested instruction concerning subjective knowledge was improper because it ‘assumes that the factual basis of negligent act [sic] was failing to check the firearm for live rounds,’ and that any deviation from the UJI [uniform jury instruction] by inserting such language was unwarranted,” the lawyers continued in the motion.

“The prosecution,” Baker notes “very much disagrees” with the way lawyers for Baldwin—who has maintained that he did not pull the trigger and that he did not know the gun accidentally contained live ammunition—has characterized the scenario.

<p>Elder Ordonez/SplashNews</p> Alec Baldwin

Elder Ordonez/SplashNews

Alec Baldwin

In their April 5 response, Morrissey and fellow special prosecutor Jason J. Lewis called the claims from Baldwin’s lawyers “patently false.” They said they “did not deviate from [uniform jury instructions], we simply filled in the language that was required to be filled in and did so in accordance with the instruction and the facts presented to the jury.”

As for what happens next with the motion to dismiss, Baldwin’s team has the opportunity to file a reply to the prosecution’s response. After that, the judge in the case, Mary Marlowe Sommer, could then make a decision based on the filings or schedule a hearing to allow attorneys for both sides to argue their points. “And I think it's appropriate in the motion to dismiss to allow the attorneys to be heard,” says Baker.

With regard to the outcome of the motion based on the jury instruction argument, “it comes down to a very narrow question of whether that jury instruction was proper or whether that jury instruction violated what the court ordered about the grand jury,” continues Baker, who says Judge Sommer will make that decision.

But even if Baldwin’s attorneys are unsuccessful in their motion to have the case against Baldwin dismissed, Baker says the whole process is somewhat of a win for the former 30 Rock star.

<p>John Lamparski/WireImage</p> Alec Baldwin in 2023

John Lamparski/WireImage

Alec Baldwin in 2023

Related: Maximum Sentence for Rust Armorer Should Be a ‘Wake-Up Call’ for Alec Baldwin Ahead of Trial: Expert (Exclusive)

Baldwin, she notes, has a large legal team compared to special prosecutors Morrissey and Lewis, who on April 12 added a third to their team, Erlinda Johnson.

“In civil litigation, they commonly joke about burying someone in paper,” says Baker, who notes Morrissey and Lewis also just successfully prosecuted Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed for involuntary manslaughter in March. Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of the weapons on the set, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on April 15.

“They’re dealing with all of the case work in the Hannah case and the sentencing, doing all the motion work, and doing that trial. And then they're also responding to these motions in the Baldwin case, and trial's just a few months away. So they’re probably spread very thin,” says Baker.

“The prosecution can get buried in paper here and then their time is substantially taken up dealing with it,” she notes.

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