‘Rust’ Armorer’s Trial Gives Baldwin’s Team Window Into How His Own Trial Could Unfold

‘Rust’ Armorer’s Trial Gives Baldwin’s Team Window Into How His Own Trial Could Unfold
"Rust" movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed (C) talks with her attorney Jason Bowles (R) and her defense team during her involuntary manslaughter trial at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, N.M., on March 5, 2024. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, Pool)

SANTA FE, N.M.—The trial and conviction of a movie armorer in connection with a fatal shooting on the set of the Western movie “Rust” has given Alec Baldwin and his legal team a unusual window into how his own trial in the death could unfold.

A New Mexico jury deliberated less than three hours Wednesday before convicting armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed of involuntary manslaughter in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. She was swiftly taken into custody as she awaits sentencing, facing up to 18 months in prison.

Mr. Baldwin figured prominently into testimony and closing arguments over two weeks that highlighted his authority as a co-producer and the lead actor on “Rust.” Both the prosecution and defense in Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s trial dissected video footage of Mr. Baldwin before the fatal shooting for clues about breakdowns in firearms safety.

Mr. Baldwin’s trial is scheduled for July and will involve the same judge and prosecutors as well as many of the same witnesses. Mr. Baldwin has maintained that he pulled back the gun’s hammer, but not the trigger, and the weapon fired, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Having seen Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s trial play out will be a boon to Mr. Baldwin and his legal team, said Emily D. Baker, a legal analyst and former Los Angeles deputy district attorney who wasn’t involved in the case but followed it closely.

“They’re in the incredible position of getting to watch this prosecutor in action, see how this judge works, and come in knowing exactly what these experts are going to say and how they present to the jury,” Ms. Baker said Wednesday. “I don’t think Baldwin’s going to want to deal in this case, and I think his legal team will tell him this is a very different case than the case against Hannah.”

A weapons expert for the prosecution in Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s case gave strong testimony, Ms. Baker said. But the armorer expert was aligned with what Mr. Baldwin’s team has been saying all along—that it wasn’t his job to check the weapon, Ms. Baker said.

Expert witness and movie firearms consultant Bryan Carpenter testified that images showed Mr. Baldwin firing blanks toward a camera within a “no-go” zone at close range, flouting safety protocols as he commanded crew members to quickly reload his revolver, and waving a gun like a pointing stick after the close of one scene. Another clip captures the sound of Mr. Baldwin firing a gun after a director calls out, “Cut!”

Investigators haven’t found any video recordings of the shooting, which took place during a rehearsal inside a makeshift church on Oct. 21, 2021, on a movie set outside Santa Fe. But Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s trial included previously undisclosed testimony from eyewitnesses to the shooting.

Those witnesses included Mr. Souza, who felt the shock of a bullet’s impact as he moved in for a view of the camera monitor—but never saw the gun that shot him.

Baldwin Set Shooting
“Rust” movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed (C) talks with her attorney Jason Bowles (R) and her defense team during her involuntary manslaughter trial at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, N.M., on March 5, 2024. (Jim Weber/Pool/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

A camera-dolly operator and the assistant director Dave Halls also gave visceral accounts of the revolver firing and the aftermath. Script writer Mamie Mitchell testified that the script didn’t call for Mr. Baldwin to point the gun.

“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,” prosecutor Kari Morrissey said in her closing arguments against Ms. Gutierrez-Reed. “Not with you and not today. That’ll be with another jury, on another day.”

Ms. Morrissey and co-counsel Jason Lewis presented the case against Mr. Baldwin to a grand jury in January and secured an indictment on the single felony count that gives them two pathways to prosecution. A recent analysis of the gun gave them the opportunity to reboot the case after an initial involuntary manslaughter charge against Mr. Baldwin was dismissed.

That analysis by Forensic Science Services in Arizona concluded “the trigger had to be pulled or depressed sufficiently to release the fully cocked or retracted hammer of the evidence revolver.”

The author of an earlier FBI report on the gun testified at Ms. Gutierrez-Reed trial that the gun arrived with all safety features in working order, and that only way the revolver would fire with the hammer full retracted was to strike it with a mallet and break it.

Defense attorneys for Mr. Baldwin have shown no sign of compromise with special prosecutors appointed by Santa Fe-area District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, who is running for reelection and confronting a Democratic primary challenge by a former DA in June.

A February fundraising message from Ms. Carmack-Altwies vowed justice for Hutchins and her family “no matter who else is involved,” without naming Mr. Baldwin.

“No one avoids culpability due to fame, wealth, or connections in my jurisdiction,” she wrote.

During Ms. Gutierrez-Reed’s trial last week, one witness for the prosecution stated the obvious as a prosecutor asked, “Is Mr. Baldwin on trial today?”

“It appears that he is a bit, yes,” said Ross Addiego, a crew member who witnessed the fatal shooting at close range and has sued Mr. Baldwin in civil court.

The lawsuit is one in a series of legal actions, including wrongful death claims filed by members of Hutchins’ family, centered on accusations that the defendants were lax with safety standards. Mr. Baldwin and other defendants have disputed those allegations.

The filming of “Rust” moved to Montana after the shooting in New Mexico, under an agreement with Hutchins’ widower, Matthew Hutchins, that made him an executive producer.

By Morgan Lee and Andrew Dalton

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