Alec Baldwin's involuntary manslaughter trial begins in 'Rust': NPR

Actor Alec Baldwin leaves the courtroom after jury selection on Tuesday. Baldwin's wife, Hilaria, and his brother, actor Stephen Baldwin, were with him in the courtroom.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP


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Actor Alec Baldwin is on trial in New Mexico for involuntary manslaughter.

Opening arguments and testimony begin Wednesday. A jury of 11 women and five men, including alternates, was sworn in Tuesday. Twelve of them will decide whether he is found guilty.

In October 2021, Baldwin rehearsed a scene with a gun for the film Rust on a ranch outside Santa Fe. The gun unexpectedly discharged, fatally hitting camerawoman Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

The 66-year-old actor faces up to 18 months in prison if found guilty, but has pleaded not guilty. Since the shooting, he has maintained his innocence and said he was not responsible for the bullet that was loaded into what was supposed to be a blank pistol.

A photo of camerawoman Halyna Hutchins, displayed at a vigil in her honor in Albuquerque, NM, October 23, 2021.

A photo of camerawoman Halyna Hutchins, displayed at a vigil in her honor in Albuquerque, NM, in October 2021.

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Andrés Leighton/AP

After the accident, Baldwin went on national television to report on the events on the set of Bonanza Creek Ranch. He told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that the revolver was handed to him and someone shouted “cold gun,” meaning there were no live rounds in the gun.

“I grab the gun and I start cocking it,” Baldwin explained on TV. “I let go of the hammer and the gun goes off… I didn't pull the trigger.”

That interview and other statements he made to the press and police could be part of the evidence presented at his trial. New Mexico Special Prosecutor Kari Morrissey says she plans to prove his criminal guilt.

Alec Baldwin gestures as he talks to detectives after the fatal on-set shooting that killed camerawoman Halyna Hutchins in October 2021. Video of the conversation was released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office in 2022.

Alec Baldwin gestures as he talks to detectives after the fatal on-set shooting that killed camerawoman Halyna Hutchins in October 2021. Video of the conversation was released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office in 2022.

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Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office/AP

“Mr. Baldwin knew he had a real gun in his hand. Mr. Baldwin specifically asked for the largest gun available. Mr. Baldwin knew and understood that fake bullets look the same as real ammunition,” Morrissey told the judge during a preliminary hearing two weeks ago. Morrissey said Baldwin failed to pay attention during a safety training on the set. “Halyna Hutchins is dead,” she said, “because he did not participate in the safety check.”

Prosecutors had hoped to argue that Baldwin, as one of the film’s producers, should be held even more responsible for the lapses in safety on set. But the state suffered a major setback during a preliminary hearing earlier this week when a judge ruled that Baldwin can only be held accountable for his actions as an actor.

Rust gun maker already behind bars

The film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was responsible for weapons and ammunition on set. She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter earlier this year and is serving an 18-month prison sentence. Prosecutors argued that her negligence on set led to Halyna Hutchins' death.

“I am saddened by the way the media has sensationalized our traumatic tragedy and portrayed me as a complete monster, which is actually the opposite of what is in my heart,” Gutierrez-Reed read aloud in a statement during her trial. “When I recorded RustI was young and naive, but I took my job as seriously as I could. Even though I didn't have the right time, resources and staff when things got tough, I just did my best to deal with it.”

Prosecutors have indicated they may call Gutierrez-Reed to testify in Baldwin's trial, but it's unclear whether she will ultimately take the stand. Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, who presided over her trial and will preside over Baldwin's, said in a recent hearing that the gunsmith was unlikely to cooperate.

Possible Testimony at Baldwin's Trial

Also on the witness list prosecutors have submitted for the trial: director Souza, script supervisor Mamie Mitchell and prop master Sarah Zachry, who were all on set the day of filming. Movie gunsmiths Seth Kenney and Bryan W. Carpenter and firearms expert Lucien Haag may also be called upon as experts.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who worked as a gunsmith on the set of the film Rust, arrives at her hearing in April.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who worked as a gunsmith on the set of Rust in New Mexico, arrives at her sentencing hearing in April. She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in March and is serving an 18-month prison sentence.

Eddie Moore/AFP via Getty Images


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Eddie Moore/AFP via Getty Images

Amid that Baldwin's lawyers can call to the stand is Rust Assistant Director David Halls. Last year he was convicted of unsafe handling of a firearm during production; at the time he agreed to testify truthfully at any future hearings or trials related to the Rust to shoot.

Baldwin's attempts to have charges against him dropped

Baldwin’s attorneys also made a last-minute effort to have the case against their client dismissed. They recently blamed prosecutors for intentionally damaging the gun during testing after the shooting. During a preliminary hearing two weeks ago, an FBI agent said he tested the gun to see if it would accidentally discharge without pulling the trigger, even when struck hard. He testified that he struck the gun from different angles with a raw hammer. As a result, the gun shattered.

“It is ironic that in a case that is potentially about an accident, the state can somehow get away with intentionally destroying key evidence and depriving the defense of that evidence,” Baldwin's attorney Alex Spiro told Judge Sommer. However, she ruled that prosecutors not acted in bad faith when he ordered the test and requested that the trial proceed.

Meanwhile, Baldwin is busy in Hollywood

Baldwin has been busy with his work in Hollywood in recent years. He plays the role of a lumberjack in the action thriller Clear Cutwhich will be in theaters and on demand from July 19, the same day that Judge Sommer indicated she wants the trial stopped.

Baldwin, his wife Hilaria and their seven children recently announced They will star in an upcoming reality series on TLC, “The Baldwins.”

Meanwhile, production of the indie film is underway Rust wrapped last year in Montana, with Halyna Hutchins' widower Matthew serving as executive producer — a position he negotiated as part of his wrongful death settlement with the production company.

It is not yet clear when and where exactly the film will be shown; Rust still has no distribution agreements.

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