Santa Fe D.A. Mary Carmack-Altwies will step aside in the prosecution of Alec Baldwin for the fatal shooting of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, and has named two lawyers to take over the case.
Carmack-Altwies appointed Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis as special prosecutors on the case. Both are private attorneys based in Albuquerque.
The move comes after Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ruled on Monday that Carmack-Altwies could not continue to prosecute the case if she appointed a special prosecutor.
Baldwin and “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed were charged in January with involuntary manslaughter for the death of Hutchins. Gutierrez Reed mistakenly loaded a live round into Baldwin’s gun. Baldwin was holding it when it fired — he has denied pulling the trigger — killing Hutchins and wounding the film’s director.
The prosecution has faced a number of setbacks. Earlier this month, special prosecutor Andrea Reeb stepped down, after Baldwin’s lawyer argued that she could not serve as both a prosecutor and a state lawmaker at the same time.
Carmack-Altwies has said that her office is overwhelmed with its existing caseload, and is short-staffed, and therefore she could not handle the case without outside assistance.
But the judge ruled on Monday that under the special prosecutor statute, Carmack-Altwies must recuse herself from the case if she appoints an outside lawyer.
A preliminary hearing is due to begin on May 3, and is expected to run for two weeks, with possibly dozens of witnesses. That gives Morrissey and Lewis relatively little time to get up to speed on a high-profile case that was investigated for more than a year.
Carmack-Altwies had earlier said that she would need to stay on to assist the new prosecutor, given the volume of material involved, because otherwise the new lawyer would need to redo a lot of work from scratch.
But the judge’s decision left her with a choice of handling the case entirely by herself, or stepping aside. She opted to step aside.
“My responsibility to the people of the First Judicial District is greater than any one case, which is why I have chosen to appoint a special prosecutor in the ‘Rust’ case,” Carmack-Altwies said. “Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis will unflinchingly pursue justice in the death of Halyna Hutchins on behalf of the people of First Judicial District.”
David Halls, the first assistant director on “Rust,” is due to plead no contest on Friday to a misdemeanor charge of negligent handling of a deadly weapon. He is expected to testify at the preliminary hearing.