'Rust' armorer denied immunity to testify at Alec Baldwin trial

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[June 22, 2024]  (Reuters) - A New Mexico judge on Friday denied the prosecution's request that convicted "Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez be given immunity to testify at the July trial of Alec Baldwin for the 2021 fatal shooting of the movie's cinematographer.  

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the former armorer at the movie Rust, stands in front of the judge as she listens during her sentencing hearing in First District Court, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S., April 15, 2024. Luis Sanchez Saturno/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Gutierrez was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in March for the on-set killing of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and was what Morrissey called "an incredibly important witness" against Baldwin. Prosecutors are trying to show Baldwin was negligent in his use of a revolver that fired a live round into Hutchins.

Prosecutor Kari Morrissey said during a hearing Friday that she still might call Gutierrez to the stand, though the judge said it was clear from preliminary interviews and from her lawyer's arguments Friday that Gutierrez would not answer questions on the stand, with or without immunity.

In pre-trial interviews Gutierrez claimed her constitutional right to remain silent and not incriminate herself when questioned on firearms safety failures leading up to the shooting inside a movie-set church near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Prosecutors had requested that Gutierrez get so-called use immunity, which would prevent them using anything she says at Baldwin's trial against her.

Her lawyer said she does not wish to incriminate herself as she appeals her April sentencing of 18 months imprisonment and in another unrelated weapons case she faces.

Gutierrez was sentenced after a jury found her guilty of criminal negligence for mistakenly loading a live round into the revolver Baldwin was using.

Baldwin has denied responsibility for Hutchins' death, saying the gun went off on its own after he pointed it at the cinematographer and cocked it. He denies pulling the trigger.

In a recorded phone conversation after her March trial Gutierrez was recorded saying she wanted to see Baldwin "in jail," according to a court filing by prosecutors.

Also on Friday, district court judge Mary Marlowe Sommer allowed a group of defense witnesses to remain after Baldwin's legal team requested they be removed from their list following pre-trial interviews.

State prosecutor Morrissey said in a court filing that one of the witnesses, Zachariah Sneesby, said in a pre-trial interview that he saw Baldwin pull the trigger of the revolver when it fired the round that killed Hutchins.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay, Jonathan Allen and Donna Bryson; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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