Criminal defense attorney speaks on ‘Rust’ shooting coverage

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico was in the national spotlight a lot this week, including when prosecutors announced charges in the tragedy.

If there is a trial for actor Alec Baldwin – the country will be paying attention to New Mexico’s criminal justice system.

We spoke with a criminal defense attorney Saturday who says while no one is above the law, whether you like it or not, a case of this magnitude changes the way things are going to play out. 

“Everybody’s been familiar with the Baldwin family, for generations, right?” said Jenn Burrill, president-elect of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. 

So how does this star power effect a possible jury trial? 

“In this, it’s a little different situation, because it’s not just Santa Fe news covering this nonstop, it’s national news. So there’s not really another jurisdiction within the state, that probably would be fair, in terms of not having as much access to the media or watching it or knowing the facts,” said Burrill.

Burrill says with “Baldwin” being a household name, changing locations is off the table. But how do you find an impartial jury? 

Burrill says if it comes to that, it’s going to be tough.

“The questioning is going to be way different than we would normally ask, right? Because we, one of the standard questions is, you know, ‘have you seen any media coverage of about this?’ And so it’s going to be next to impossible to find somebody who has lived under a rock and not seeing any media coverage on this,” said Burrill. 

That’s if this goes to trial. She says official charges have to be filed and then come preliminary hearings, where felony charges could be dismissed. 

Trial or not, the Rust case has pushed Santa Fe’s legal system into the spotlight.

 “I think it’s highlighting our capacity problem. We do have a capacity problem, obviously, you know, especially last year when the governor added a lot more police officers onto the street. We’re now seeing that the prosecutors, the courts, and the defense attorneys don’t have the capacity to handle that,” said Burrill. 

Burrill says the lack of manpower is clear now more than ever.

 “That’s highlighted by the district attorney going to the emergency funding, right $317,000 in emergency funding, which was less than half of what she had actually asked for, because they don’t have the resources in their office,” she said. 

Burrill says the criminal defense attorney community is ready for charges to be officially filed so proceedings can actually start, and what she calls  “armchair quarterbacking ” and speculation on this case can stop.