Actor Alec Baldwin, who's accused in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, filed a motion Tuesday to remove special prosecutor Andrea Reeb from the case, citing New Mexico's separation-of-powers statute.
Baldwin's legal team argues that Reeb, a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives, should be barred from the prosecutor's table because the state constitution says a "sitting member of the Legislature may not 'exercise any powers properly belonging' to either the executive or judicial branch," according to a filing with the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico.
"As a special prosecutor, Representative Reeb is vested by statute with 'all the powers and duties' of a district attorney, who is considered to be a member of either the judicial or executive branch of the New Mexico government," according to Baldwin's defense.
"Representative Reeb is therefore exercising either the executive power or the judicial power, and her continued service as a special prosecutor is unconstitutional."
Baldwin, who has denied any wrongdoing in the on-set shooting, also said a politician could be susceptible to undue public pressure.
“A prosecutor who also serves as a legislator could face pressure to make prosecutorial decisions that serve her legislative interests,” the filing says.
"And even if she does not allow her legislative interests to influence her prosecutorial choices, the perception of bias could diminish public confidence in the fairness of the criminal process.”
The office of First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies scoffed at Baldwin's filing — but didn't directly address his claim.
“Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys can use whatever tactics they want to distract from the fact that Halyna Hutchins died because of gross negligence and a reckless disregard for safety on the 'Rust' film set," her office said in a statement.
"However, the district attorney and the special prosecutor will remain focused on the evidence and on trying this case so that justice is served.”
Reeb told CNN last month that her decisions as a prosecutor were not influenced by politics.
“Everybody’s equal under the law. It doesn’t matter if he’s a liberal Democrat and I’m a conservative Republican,” she said. “My job has always been to prosecute crimes and hold defendants accountable and help victims. In this case it’s no different.”
Baldwin attorney Luke Nikas has called the charges a “terrible miscarriage of justice." Nikas has previously said the defense would fight the accusations and win.
“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set,” Nikas has said. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked.”
University of New Mexico law professor Joshua Kastenberg said that Baldwin raises valid points in the separation-of-powers argument but that he doesn't believe Reeb will be removed.
The state House is a part-time body, and Reeb's appointment as a special prosecutor is a special assignment with no inherent conflict of interest, Kastenberg said.
"The argument would be really strong if this was a political corruption case and a member of the Legislature were picked to be special prosecutors on a member of the Legislature," Kastenberg said. "But this is kind of a one-off case."
New Mexico prosecutors last week charged Baldwin and “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Hutchins during filming for “Rust” at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County.
Baldwin was rehearsing with a pistol for a scene on Oct. 21, 2021, when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza, officials said.
Jason Bowles, a lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed, has said his client shouldn’t have been charged because she did everything possible to raise safety standards on the film's set.
“Hannah pleaded to provide more firearms training,” Bowles said in a statement. “She was denied and brushed aside. Hannah asked to be able to perform her armorer duties more for safety reasons. She was told by production to focus on props.”