‘Rust’: Santa Fe DA Steps Down From Case & Assigns Two Special Prosecutors

‘Rust’: Santa Fe DA Steps Down From Case & Assigns Two Special Prosecutors

Two days after a judge shut down the prosecution’s attempt to bring on a new special prosecutor in the Rust shooting, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies has stepped aside and appointed a pair of special prosecutors — veteran New Mexico attorneys Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis — to take over the high-profile case.

“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 in a statement today. “Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis will unflinchingly pursue justice in the death of Halyna Hutchins on behalf of the people of First Judicial District.”

Heather Brewer, a spokesperson for First New Mexico Judicial District Attorney, said in a statement:

“New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies on Wednesday appointed long-time New Mexico attorneys Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis to serve as special prosecutors in the ‘Rust’ case. Morrissey’s and Lewis’ extensive experience and trial expertise will allow the state to pursue justice for Halyna Hutchins and ensure that in New Mexico everyone is held accountable under the law. 

“With the appointment of new special prosecutors, 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. Carmack-Altwies will continue her record of prosecuting drunken drivers, collaborating with local law enforcement, increasing diversion efforts and securing convictions against the most dangerous and prolific offenders.” 

As Dominic Patten told you recently, this was in the cards for the DA to step down. Under a Land of Enchantment statute, the DA’s office could bring aboard a private lawyer to help with cases on a contract basis — which is went down here.

Two days ago, the DA in dire straits pleaded to Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, “We need extra manpower on this case…All the money in the world doesn’t help prosecute a case if we can’t find the bodies in our office.” That stemmed from Carmack-Altwies losing nearly a third of her prosecution team over the last few years.

“So, we have to be able to look outside of our offices in order to find people. That is our good cause that we do not have the sufficient manpower to fully prosecute this by ourselves. Bringing on a special prosecutor helps with that by taking on some of the burden of prosecution,” Carmack-Altwies said two days ago.

More losses on the D.A.’s hands in the crusade against Alec Baldwin and ex-Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the elected official lost a February 24 attempt to block Reed’s request to possess a gun in her home for self-defense. There was also a drop in firearm enhancement charge from the on-going case last month, and the loss of besieged Andrea Reeb as special prosecutor earlier this month.

More than a year after the killing of DP Halynia Hutchins on the Rust set, Baldwin and Reed were charged in late January with two counts of involuntary manslaughter out of the October 21, 2021 tragedy. Under the current charges, now that the five-year sentence connected to the firearm enhancement is gone, Baldwin and Reed are looking at a maximum of 18 months behind bars and around $5,000 in fines if a jury delivers guilty verdicts. Both have pleaded not guilty.