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Alec Baldwin’s Manslaughter Trial Begins; Witnesses Recall Chaotic Set
Actor Alec Baldwin listens during his hearing in Santa Fe County District Court.

A defense attorney addressed jurors Wednesday, describing the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins as an “unspeakable tragedy” and asserting that “Alec Baldwin committed no crime; he was an actor, acting.”

Baldwin’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, emphasized during his opening statement in a Santa Fe, New Mexico, courtroom that Baldwin, who is on trial for involuntary manslaughter, adhered to standard practices for actors on film sets. “I don’t have to tell you any more about this, because you’ve all seen gunfights in movies,” Spiro said.

Special prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson countered in her opening statement, claiming Baldwin skipped safety checks and recklessly handled a revolver. “The evidence will show that someone who played make-believe with a real gun and violated the cardinal rules of firearm safety is the defendant, Alexander Baldwin,” Ocampo Johnson stated.

Spiro argued that “these cardinal rules, they’re not cardinal rules on a movie set.” He added, “On a movie set, safety has to occur before a gun is placed in an actor’s hand.”

The first witness was Nicholas LeFleur, a Santa Fe county sheriff’s deputy, who arrived at Bonanza Creek Ranch after the shooting. Courtroom video from his body camera captured frantic efforts to save Hutchins, who appeared unconscious as several people attended to her and gave her an oxygen mask. Baldwin watched the footage somberly.

Later in the video, LeFleur advised Baldwin not to speak to other potential witnesses, but Baldwin persisted. When asked if the deputy handled the situation ideally, he responded, “Probably not. But it’s what happened.”

Spiro aimed to show that neither LeFleur nor the trial’s second witness, former sheriff’s Lt. Tim Benavidez, treated the scene as a major crime site. Benavidez, who collected the revolver after the shooting, admitted he handled it carefully for safety reasons but did not take detailed forensic precautions.

Ocampo Johnson guided jurors through the events leading up to Hutchins’ death. She stated that on that day, Baldwin declined multiple safety checks with armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed before the rehearsal at the small church where Hutchins was killed. “He cocks the hammer, points it straight at Miss Hutchins, and fires that gun, sending that live bullet right into Miss Hutchins’ body,” she said.

During the presentation, Baldwin kept his gaze on a notepad, avoiding the jury’s eyes. His wife Hilaria Baldwin, his younger brother Stephen Baldwin, and older sister Elizabeth Keuchler—who wiped away tears at times—were among the family and friends supporting him.

The 16 jurors—11 women and five men—come from an area where gun ownership and safety are influenced by backcountry hunting. Four jurors will be alternates, while the remaining 12 will deliberate once the case is concluded.

Hutchins’ death and the injury of director Joel Souza almost three years ago shocked the film industry and led to a felony charge against Baldwin, who could face up to 18 months in prison. “It killed an amazing person,” Spiro said. “It wounded another, and it changed lives forever.”

Baldwin has claimed that the gun fired accidentally after he followed directions to point it toward Hutchins, who was behind the camera. Unaware that it contained a live round, he said he pulled back the hammer—rather than the trigger—and it discharged. “No one saw him intentionally pull the trigger,” Spiro noted.

Spiro argued that even if Baldwin had pulled the trigger, it wouldn’t constitute manslaughter. “On a movie set, you’re allowed to pull that trigger,” he said, adding that “it doesn’t make it a homicide.”

The lawyer stressed that safety responsibility fell on the film’s armorer, Gutierrez-Reed, convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and assistant director David Halls, who pleaded no contest to negligent use of a deadly weapon for his testimony. Baldwin had been given a “cold gun” not knowing there was a live round in it.

“The gun had been checked and double-checked by those responsible for ensuring its safety,” Spiro said. “He did not tamper with it, he did not load it himself. He did not leave it unattended.”

Spiro has become one of the most in-demand defense attorneys, representing high-profile clients like Elon Musk, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Megan Thee Stallion.

Baldwin, known for his roles in “Beetlejuice,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and “30 Rock,” remains a prominent figure in the entertainment industry.

Spiro concluded his opening by stating that no other actor in history has ever intercepted a live bullet from a prop gun. “No one could have imagined or expected an actor to do that,” the lawyer asserted.

Testimony will delve into whether the weapon could have fired without a trigger pull. Prosecutors contend it couldn’t. “The gun the defendant had asked to be assigned worked perfectly fine as it was designed,” Ocampo Johnson said.

Attorney Gloria Allred attended the trial, representing “Rust” script supervisor Mamie Mitchell and Hutchins’ family in a civil lawsuit against Baldwin and other producers. Allred noted that the jury seemed riveted by the testimony and evidence, including the police lapel camera video.

Source: AP, ABC News, Fox News