New special prosecutors have been appointed to oversee criminal charges in the Rust shooting after the former lawyer handling the cases was forced to step down.
Jason Lewis and Kari Morrissey will serve as the lead lawyers in the prosecution of Alec Baldwin and Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office announced on Wednesday.
The appointment of the Albuquerque-based attorneys comes after former special prosecutor Andrea Reeb was forced to bow out of the prosecution after Baldwin’s lawyers pointed out a potential conflict of interest due to her elected position in the New Mexico House of Representatives. First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who tapped Reeb to handle the criminal charges, will also remove herself from the cases, according to the office.
In a statement, Carmack-Altwies said her “responsibility to the people of the First Judicial District is greater than any one case.” She will “continue her record of prosecuting drunken drivers, collaborating with local law enforcement, increasing diversion efforts and securing convictions against the most dangerous prolific offenders,” said a spokesperson for the office.
During a hearing on Monday, the judge overseeing the prosecution found that the district attorney’s office couldn’t name a new special prosecutor unless it entirely recused itself from the cases. The ruling was the latest in a series of setbacks starting with the downgrading of charges against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed and culminating with claims that Reed was unconstitutionally appointed and wanted in on the prosecution to advance her political career.
Lewis worked in the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions from 2000 to 2010, the last year as chief of staff, until he opened up his own law office, according to his LinkedIn page. His practice ranges from constitutional law to labor, according to the State Bar of New Mexico. Criminal law wasn’t listed as a practice area, though he may have experience.
Morrissey practices in criminal law as well as constitutional law, according to the state bar.
The district attorney’s office said Lewis and Morrissey have “extensive experience and trial expertise.”
Both of the attorneys didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
The state legislature has allocated $360,000 in additional funding for the district attorney’s office, which requested the money to assist with the prosecution due to being short-staffed.
A two-week preliminary hearing is scheduled to start on May 3 to determine if there’s enough evidence to proceed with the prosecution.
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