By Andrew Hay
(Reuters) -The New Mexico district attorney who charged actor Alec Baldwin for the shooting death of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins said on Wednesday she would step down as a prosecutor on the case, marking another win for defense lawyers.
First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in a statement she was passing prosecution of the case over to long-time New Mexico lawyers Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis.
Just five weeks before a high-profile preliminary hearing, the Albuquerque attorneys will take over the case as special prosecutors.
Carmack-Altwies is the second prosecutor to resign from a legal team in the case, which has been beset by errors since Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were charged in January for the death of the rising-star cinematographer.
A previous special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, a Republican state representative, stepped down on March 15 after Baldwin’s lawyers argued it was unlawful for her to serve as a member of the state judiciary and legislature at the same time.
Lawyers for Gutierrez-Reed this month filed a motion to stop Carmack-Altwies acting as a co-prosecutor in the case, arguing that she could not appoint a new special prosecutor and continue to take part in the prosecution herself.
District court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer agreed, giving the district attorney until Friday to make a decision.
“Carmack-Altwies will step aside from personally prosecuting the ‘Rust’ case, allowing her to focus on the broader public safety needs in New Mexico’s First Judicial District,” said Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the district attorney.
At a hearing starting May 3 Sommer will decide if there is probable cause to try Gutierrez-Reed and Baldwin on criminal charges that require prosecutors prove the pair showed intentional disregard for Hutchins’ safety.
Both were charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, the most serious of which was subsequently dropped after Baldwin’s lawyers found the law underpinning it was passed after Hutchins was shot.
Baldwin has pleaded not guilty and Gutierrez-Reed is expected to do the same.
Hutchins was killed and “Rust” director Joel Souza wounded on the film set on Oct. 21, 2021 when a revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with fired a live round.
Dave Halls, first assistant director on “Rust, was the only member of the cast and crew charged for Hutchins’ death to enter a guilty plea.
At a 4 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) hearing on Friday Sommer will consider a plea deal he reached with prosecutors for a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.
(Reporting By Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Leslie Adler, Cynthia Osterman and Sandra Maler)