Alec Baldwin Faces Manslaughter Trial for Fatal Shooting on Rust Set

Alec Baldwin Faces Manslaughter Trial for Fatal Shooting on Rust Set

Alec Baldwin, seen here talking to police after a fatal shooting on the Rust movie set in 2021, faces a felony criminal trial in New Mexico this summer. This image is from video released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.

Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office via AP

A felony trial for Alec Baldwin is set to begin in four months, as prosecutors in New Mexico pursue charges of involuntary manslaughter against the actor over the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust in 2021. One person has already been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the killing of 42-year-old Hutchins: Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 26, the armorer, or weapons supervisor, for the film. A jury recently sided with prosecutors who said that as the person in charge of the production’s weaponry, Gutierrez-Reed was negligent and reckless, leading to Hutchins’ death.

Gutierrez-Reed is now awaiting sentencing, facing the possible maximum of an 18-month prison term — the same punishment Baldwin could see if he were to be found guilty. Jury selection for Baldwin’s criminal trial is scheduled to begin on July 9. The trial is expected to last eight days, according to court records. Baldwin has an edge, a former prosecutor says. So what does the armorer’s guilty verdict mean for the 65-year-old actor, the state’s next target?

“He has the advantage here for a couple of reasons,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, who has been following the case, told NPR. “First, obviously, he’s going to point the finger at Gutierrez-Reed, who is now a convicted felon. It’s an easy empty chair to point to at trial,” the Los Angeles-based Rahmani said. And by trying Gutierrez-Reed first, he added, prosecutors gave Baldwin’s lawyers “a preview of the evidence that’s going to come out during his trial, the witness testimony, the exhibits that will be admitted.”

Rahmani also notes that Baldwin’s legal team has already notched key victories, from getting the prosecution to drop a five-year firearms sentencing enhancement from his case to getting Andrea Reeb, a New Mexico state representative who was also serving as special prosecutor, to step down from the case a year ago. Reeb’s replacements as special prosecutors, Kari Morrissey and Jason Lewis, also dropped an involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin last year, saying they needed more time to conduct forensic analysis. They warned the case could be refiled — which they later did.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty. Baldwin pleaded not guilty to the refiled involuntary manslaughter charge in January, days after a grand jury in Santa Fe indicted him. While some key details of the case are contested, it is known that Baldwin was holding a gun containing at least one live round — and that he was pointing the firearm at Hutchins when it discharged, killing the film’s cinematographer and also injuring its director, Joel Souza. The tragic news of Hutchins’ death sent shockwaves through the film industry and raised a number of questions about how an on-location rehearsal at Bonanza Creek Ranch, southwest of Santa Fe, could have gone so wrong.

In a 2021 interview, George Stephanopoulos of ABC News reminded Baldwin of a widely held maxim: to never point a gun at another person, no matter what. “Unless the person is the cinematographer who’s directing me where to point the gun for her camera angle,” Baldwin replied. “That’s exactly what happened.” But script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, who separately sued Baldwin and others after the shooting, has repeatedly disputed the idea that the script called for Baldwin to point a gun at Hutchins or the camera that day. She had been standing near the cinematographer when she was shot.

At the time of the shooting, Baldwin was practicing his “cross draw” — when the gun is holstered across the body from a shooter’s dominant hand — with Hutchins and Souza looking on. Baldwin has said he pulled the hammer back on the Colt .45 style revolver, but that he didn’t pull the trigger. He also said he didn’t know the gun held live ammunition. Prosecutors say forensic analysis of the pistol shows it could not have discharged without the trigger being pulled.

Film’s safety coordinator will be a crucial witness. Before winning a verdict against Gutierrez-Reed, the prosecution secured a conviction last year of safety coordinator and assistant director David Halls on lesser charges. In a plea deal, Halls agreed to testify truthfully in “any and all” criminal cases related to Hutchins’ death. It was Halls who checked the pistol before handing it to Baldwin, Halls’ attorney, Lisa Torraco, said last year. But, she said, Halls did not check every round in the weapon. The chance that live rounds might have been loaded into the gun, she said was “never in anyone’s imagination.”

In a recent court filing, Baldwin’s defense team included only one name on their witness list: Halls. “It seems Baldwin will stick to his original story,” Rahmani said, “that Halls gave him the gun and told him that it was a cold gun, and he relied on that representation.” One open question: to what degree prosecutors might focus on Baldwin’s role as a co-producer of the Western film, whose production reportedly saw other accidental gun discharges. Six months after Hutchins died, New Mexico imposed the maximum possible fine on Rust’s producers, citing firearms safety failures on the set. But Rahmani says that in his view, the prosecution should focus on the fatal shooting itself.

“I think if you’re the state and you want to convict Baldwin, I think you’ve got to lean in to [proving Baldwin pulled the trigger] despite denying it,” he said. But Rahmani predicts getting a conviction will be a challenge, for one other reason. “Jurors love celebrities. So I think the state is going to have an uphill battle.”

The actor accidentally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021. February 26, 2024, 2:42 PM. The involuntary manslaughter trial for Alec Baldwin over the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” in October 2021 has been set for July, according to New Mexico’s First Judicial District Court. Jury selection is set to begin on July 9 with the trial expected to last from July 10 to 19. Baldwin was indicted by a grand jury on Jan. 19 on an involuntary manslaughter charge after prosecutors dropped the original manslaughter charges last April. Baldwin, 65, is accused of fatally shooting Hutchins, 42, on the New Mexico set of the Western in October 2021. The actor was practicing a cross-draw when the gun fired, striking the cinematographer and director Joel Souza, who suffered a non-life-threatening injury. Baldwin pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter on Jan. 31.

Actor Alec Baldwin departs his home, as he will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie “Rust”, in New York, Jan. 31, 2023. David Dee Delgado/Reuters, FILE. Two others were charged in the on-set shooting, including armorer Hannah Gutierrez and first assistant director David Halls. Halls pleaded no contest to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and was sentenced to six months unsupervised probation as part of a plea deal. Halls handed the Colt .45 revolver to Baldwin prior to the shooting. The trial for Gutierrez, who is also charged with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting, began last week. She was also subsequently charged with tampering with evidence, with prosecutors alleging she handed off a small bag of cocaine after her interview with police following the shooting on Oct. 21, 2021. Gutierrez, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 18 months in jail on each charge, if convicted.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles claimed last week that the production created a “chaotic scene” by giving Gutierrez props duties that took away from her job as lead armorer. He said she wasn’t given sufficient time to train the crew on the firearms, including Baldwin, whom he argued was inappropriately handling the gun by pointing it at the crew. “You’re not going to hear anything about [Gutierrez] being in that church or firing that weapon — that was Alec Baldwin,” Bowles said.

Getty Images’We look forward to our day in court,’ lawyers for Alec Baldwin replied on Friday. A grand jury in New Mexico has charged Alec Baldwin with a fresh count of involuntary manslaughter over a fatal movie set shooting in October 2021. Previous charges against the Emmy award-winning actor were dropped last April, just two weeks before a criminal trial against him was due to begin. Local prosecutors have since shared “additional facts” from forensic tests on the weapon used in the shooting. Attorneys for Mr Baldwin told the BBC: “We look forward to our day in court.” Mr Baldwin, 65, was practicing firing a Colt .45 pistol before filming a scene for Rust, an upcoming Western film shot near Santa Fe, in October 2021. But the gun went off, fatally striking 42-year-old cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

How the Alec Baldwin fatal film set shooting unfolded. What are the rules for guns on film sets? The actor has maintained he did not pull the trigger and only drew back the hammer of the pistol. He has also argued he is not at fault for Ms Hutchins’ death because he did not know the weapon contained live rounds and because no live ammunition was supposed to be on set. But special prosecutors in New Mexico said in October that they had commissioned forensic experts to reconstruct the weapon, after it had been broken during FBI testing. They said doing so revealed that the incident could only have taken place if the trigger had been pulled. “Although Alec Baldwin repeatedly denies pulling the trigger, given the tests, findings and observations reported here, the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver,” their report concluded.

Watch: Alec Baldwin rehearses with gun before fatal shooting (video from April 2022). The new evidence was brought to a grand jury of 12 beginning on Thursday, with a requirement for at least eight to agree on probable cause for new charges. Their one-count indictment was issued on Friday under two alternative legal theories – that Mr Baldwin was either negligent in his use of a firearm or that he acted with “total disregard or indifference for the safety of others”. Prosecutors have indicated that he can only be convicted on one of these theories, not both. If convicted, he faces up to 18 months in prison. An attorney representing Ms Hutchins’ family said it was “looking forward to the criminal trial”. “Our clients have always sought the truth about what happened on the day that Halyna Hutchins was tragically shot and killed,” Gloria Allred said in a statement. “They continue to seek the truth in our civil lawsuit for them and they also would like there [sic] to be accountability in the criminal justice system.” Mr Baldwin – who has expressed “shock and sadness” at Ms Hutchins’ death – said in recent court filings that he has struggled to find acting work since the incident. Friday’s indictment comes exactly one year after the first manslaughter charge against him was announced. But the original case fell apart amid challenges from the Hollywood star’s lawyers and the initial team of prosecutors stepped down. The new prosecution team dismissed the charge in April 2023 over evidence that the gun may have been modified, causing it to malfunction and discharge without the trigger being pulled. But, as prosecutors weighed whether to refile charges in light of their new forensic results, judges had put several civil lawsuits against Mr Baldwin and other Rust producers on hold. A low-budget independent flick, Rust was said to be a passion project for Mr Baldwin. He stars in the film as outlaw Harland Rust, in addition to co-writing it with Mr Souza, the director, and receiving a producer credit. Aerial footage shows the film set where the incident happened. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for weapons and ammunitions on set as the film’s armourer, faces her own manslaughter charge, as well as a charge of evidence tampering. She has pleaded not guilty and will stand trial next month. Dave Halls, who was in charge of safety on set as the first assistant director, pleaded no contest last March to a misdemeanour charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. His plea agreement entailed six months of unsupervised probation in lieu of prison time. Rust was completed in May, after producers decided to finish the movie as a tribute to Ms Hutchins, and is currently awaiting distribution. Ms Hutchins’ widower, Matthew, and her son, who was nine at the time, will receive a portion of the film’s profits in line with a wrongful death settlement approved in June by a judge.

Two people have been convicted in the fatal shooting on the set of “Rust,” as actor Alec Baldwin, the third person charged in connection with the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, awaits trial on involuntary manslaughter. Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw in a church on the set of the Western film on Oct. 21, 2021, when the Colt .45 revolver fired a live round, fatally striking Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. A jury found the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting and she was sentenced to the maximum penalty for the felony — 18 months in prison — on Monday. “You alone turned a safe weapon into a lethal weapon,” Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said while handing down the sentence. “But for you, Ms. Hutchins would be alive. A husband would have his partner, and a little boy would have his mother.” David Halls, the film’s first assistant director who had conducted the safety check on the revolver prior to the shooting, was charged with negligent use of a deadly weapon in connection with the incident. He pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor and was sentenced last year to six months of probation as part of a plea deal. Baldwin, who was also a producer on the film, was indicted by a grand jury on involuntary manslaughter earlier this year, after prosecutors previously dropped the charge. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is scheduled to start in July. Alec Baldwin emcees the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala at New York Hilton Midtown on Dec. 9, 2021, in New York. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP. Gutierrez’s attorney, Jason Bowles, told ABC News following Monday’s sentencing that Gutierrez was made a scapegoat in the shooting and that the producers created a “rushed environment” on set. Her attorney said they plan to appeal. With Gutierrez getting the maximum sentence on the same charge Baldwin faces, the actor would “have to be very nervous,” Bowles said. “He’s got very good attorneys, and I know they’re working hard on it, but I think he’s got to be nervous at this point,” Bowles said. ABC News legal contributor Brian Buckmire said the sentence for Gutierrez sends a “strong message” and is going to be a “very big and scary wakeup call for Alec Baldwin.” “While many experts might say, ‘You know what, low-level felony, first-time arrest, you may get probation, you may get somewhat of a slap on the wrist.’ No. If Hannah Gutierrez is doing 18 months in prison, there becomes a much more likely reality that if Alec Baldwin is found guilty, he could be suffering from the same amount of jail time depending on how the facts play out,” Buckmire said. Gutierrez was ultimately responsible for the firearms on the set, while Baldwin occupied “both hats” as the actor wielding the gun in the shooting and a producer on the set, Buckmire said. Prosecutors may argue that he contributed “to this environment of chaos that led to underfunding, people not doing their job properly, and just as he saw with Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, live bullets all over the set,” Buckmire said. Hannah Gutierrez, left, attends her sentencing hearing at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico, April 15, 2024. Eddie Moore/Journal/POOL/AFP via Getty Images. ABC News legal contributor Channa Lloyd, managing partner at the Cochran Firm, said the cases are about “systematic failures.” “Anyone that is responsible for those can be held accountable for that systematic failure,” Lloyd said. “She obviously as the armorer had the primary duty, but there are others in the chain of command that had some failings here on this set.” When Baldwin’s case goes to trial, Lloyd said the defense will likely adjust to the information that has come out of Gutierrez’s trial and stress that she was the one responsible for the firearms on set. “They’ve seen this trial play out, they understand what the jury took issue with so, they’re going to use that to their advantage so that way they can craft his defense,” Lloyd said. “They’re gonna lean very heavily on the fact that he was not in charge of putting the bullets in the gun, that Hannah Gutierrez was, and they’re going to lean into that for his defense.” During Gutierrez’s trial, footage of Baldwin from the filming of “Rust” was shown, including a take of the actor firing a gun after “cut” was called. Prosecutor Kari Morrissey addressed his role in the shooting during her closing argument, telling jurors, “Alec Baldwin’s conduct and his lack of gun safety inside that church on that day is something that he’s going to have to answer for. Not with you and not today.” During Baldwin’s trial, prosecutors will likely focus on the producers’ responsibilities and safety guidelines and educating jurors on what the standards are, according to Helen D. (Heidi) Reavis, managing partner of Reavis Page Jump LLP, a commercial, media and employment law firm that regularly counsels film and television production companies. “I think we’re going to see the prosecutor focusing a fair amount on what to the public may seem not as dramatic, but, ‘Show me all of your fields safety guidelines. Show me the insurance policy you have for the health and safety of your personnel. Show me how each person on the set was oriented to the set, to equipment,'” Reavis told ABC News. “I think you’re going to see a very large part of the prosecution showing again and again and again, how little there is.” The defense, meanwhile, will likely try to portray Baldwin as “extremely skilled and seasoned and responsible and a victim” of Gutierrez, she said. “At the end of the day, the death of Hutchins I think is going to be seen as a really tragic wakeup call for producers around the country, and I really feel that Alec Baldwin is going to be held to a very high standard,” she said. “I believe he’s preparing for that as well as he can.” Halyna Hutchins attends the SAGindie Sundance Filmmakers Reception at Cafe Terigo on Jan. 28, 2019 in Park City, Utah. Fred Hayes/Getty Images, FILE. ABC News has reached out to Baldwin’s attorneys for comment following Gutierrez’s sentencing. Following the indictment on involuntary manslaughter earlier this year, his attorneys said in a statement, “We look forward to our day in court.” His attorneys filed

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