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Trial begins for ‘Rust’ armorer over deadly on-set shooting

Jury selection began in the trial of the woman responsible for the guns on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie “Rust.”

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, seen here with lighting technician Serge Svetnoy, died after being shot on the set of the Western movie 'Rust'
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, seen here with lighting technician Serge Svetnoy, died after being shot on the set of the Western movie 'Rust' - Copyright SERGE SVETNOY/AFP/File Handout
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, seen here with lighting technician Serge Svetnoy, died after being shot on the set of the Western movie 'Rust' - Copyright SERGE SVETNOY/AFP/File Handout
Andrew MARSZAL

Jury selection began Wednesday in the trial of the woman responsible for the guns on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie “Rust,” where a cinematographer was shot dead in 2021.

Hannah Gutierrez has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins, who died from her injuries after being hit by a live round fired from a gun Baldwin was holding.

The director of the period Western, Joel Souza, was wounded in the incident.

A trial in the western US state of New Mexico is expected to hear how as the film’s armorer, the 26-year-old Gutierrez was tasked with supplying firearms and ensuring their safe use on set.

Prosecutors are expected to argue she was lackadaisical in her approach, allowing live rounds — which should never even have been on set — to be mixed in with blank ammunition.

They are also expected to tell the jury how Gutierrez used cocaine and marijuana, and how she was hungover on the morning she loaded the live round into Baldwin’s Colt .45.

Gutierrez also faces one charge of tampering with evidence, which relates to her alleged disposal of cocaine after her initial questioning by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s officers.

Jury selection started Wednesday morning in Santa Fe, with Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer questioning the pool of potential jurors if they had seen media coverage of the case.

Opening arguments are expected to be heard on Thursday in a trial that is slated to last for two weeks.

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Gutierrez could face a prison sentence of up to 18 months.

Her lawyers are expected to argue that Hutchins’ death was the result of a series of errors brought about by intense pressure to finish the film on time and under budget.

– Baldwin –

The trial of the armorer, who is also known as Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is the latest attempt to hold someone accountable for an on-set tragedy that sent shockwaves through Hollywood and led to calls for a tightening of the rules around the use of firearms in movies.

Dave Halls, the film’s safety coordinator and assistant director who handed Baldwin the loaded gun, earlier agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to six months’ probation.

But criminal charges against Baldwin have encountered a number of setbacks.

Initial manslaughter charges were dropped in April last year, due to what prosecutors called “new facts” that demanded “further investigation and forensic analysis.”

That led to the empaneling of a grand jury, which late last year handed down a new indictment.

The 65-year-old actor in January pleaded not guilty to those involuntary manslaughter charges.

Baldwin has repeatedly denied responsibility for the incident, insisting he did not pull the trigger, and saying that as an actor, he should have been able to rely on the professionals around him to ensure that props were safe.

No date has yet been set for his trial, which could stretch into next year.

Filming of “Rust” was halted by the tragedy, but resumed last year.

The cinematographer’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, who has already settled a wrongful death suit with the producers, served as an executive producer on the project.

Director Souza also returned, saying at the time that completing the movie would be “bittersweet” but that the cast and crew “are committed to completing what Halyna and I started.”

No release date has been announced for the film.

Baldwin remains free on bail.

AFP
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