Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ shooting trial set for July

February 29, 2024 - 8:43 AM
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Actor Alec Baldwin appears in court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 23, 2019. (Alex Tabak/Pool via Reuters/File Photo)

 Actor Alec Baldwin’s manslaughter trial is set for July 10 for the 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during filming of the Western movie “Rust,” a New Mexico judge ruled on Monday.

Should Baldwin’s case reach trial, it would be remarkable as Hollywood has little precedent for an actor being held criminally responsible for an on-set shooting. Charges against Baldwin have been dropped once already.

Hutchins died when the reproduction Colt. 45 revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with inside a movie-set church outside Santa Fe fired a live round that also wounded director Joel Souza.

“Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez is standing trial for allegedly bringing the live Colt .45 round on set and failing to detect it due to what prosecutors said was her “sloppy and unprofessional” work. Gutierrez told police she loaded it into Baldwin’s gun, mistaking it for a dummy round.

Like Baldwin, Gutierrez faces an involuntary manslaughter charge. Her lawyers claim she is being scapegoated for the actor’s failure to follow firearms safety rules and a chaotic, low-budget production where industry safety guidelines were ignored to save time.

On Monday, “Rust” camera crew member Ross Addiego wept as he told jurors of “the concussion, ears ringing, that moment of panic” as Baldwin’s gun fired and the first person he made eye contactwith was Hutchins as she lay on the ground groaning.

“Miss Gutierrez Reed loaded a firearm that killed my friend,” said Addiego, adding that Gutierrez, first assistant director Dave Halls and Baldwin would skip firearms safety checks to try to meet daily production goals.

Halls entered a plea deal last year and was convicted of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Gutierrez’s lawyer Jason Bowles asked Addiego if anyone asked Baldwin, who was also a producer and writer on “Rust,” to slow filming after there were two accidental firearm discharges and film crew walked off set over safety and working conditions.

“I don’t recall anyone standing up to Mr. Baldwin on that set,” Addiego said.

Baldwin has denied responsibility for Hutchins’ death. His lawyers plan to file a motion for charges to be dismissed on grounds that a grand jury failed to follow certain rules when it reinstated charges against him in January.

During Gutierrez’s trial on Monday, FBI firearms expert Bryce Ziegler said the Italian-made Pietta revolver Baldwin was holding would not fire when fully cocked without the trigger being pulled.

The testimony contrasted with Baldwin’s initial comments after the shooting. He told ABC television in December 2021 that he had cocked the gun but did not pull the trigger.

Charges were dropped against Baldwin last year after new evidence suggested the hammer might have been modified and the gun could have fired without the trigger being pulled.

Prosecutors called a grand jury to recharge Baldwin after an independent test of the single-action revolver confirmed the FBI’s findings that it would not discharge without a trigger pull.

Ziegler said he did not notice any modifications to the firearm when it arrived at the FBI labs in Quantico, Virginia.

“It was functioning normally when I received it,” he said.

— Reporting By Andrew Hay; editing by Donna Bryson, Aurora Ellis, David Gregorio and Leslie Adler