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Jury Selection Begins in Alec Baldwin’s Involuntary Manslaughter Trial

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Alec Baldwin’s trial for the shooting of a cinematographer is set to commence on Tuesday with the selection of jurors who will determine whether the actor is guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Getting selected for a trial involving a major star accused of such a significant crime would be rare even in Los Angeles or Baldwin’s hometown of New York. However, it is an almost unheard-of experience for those chosen as jurors in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a state that has recently become a hub for Hollywood productions.

Baldwin, 66, faces up to 18 months in prison if jurors unanimously conclude he committed the felony when a revolver he was pointing at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins discharged, resulting in her death and wounding director Joel Souza during a rehearsal for the Western film “Rust” in October 2021 at Bonanza Creek Ranch, roughly 18 miles from where the trial is being held.

Baldwin has claimed the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to point it toward Hutchins, who was behind the camera. He asserted that he was unaware the gun contained a live round and that he pulled back the hammer— not the trigger— and it fired.

The star of “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October” made his first appearance in the courtroom on Monday. Judge Mary Marlowe Summer, in a significant victory for the defense, ruled at a pretrial hearing that Baldwin’s role as a co-producer on “Rust” isn’t relevant to the trial.

The judge indicated that the special circumstances of a celebrity trial shouldn’t delay jury selection and anticipated that opening statements should begin on Wednesday.

“I’m not worried about being able to pick a jury in one day,” Marlowe Summer stated. “I think we’re going to pick a jury by the afternoon.”

However, special prosecutor Kari Morrissey expressed skepticism that Baldwin’s lawyers would make a swift jury selection possible.

“It is my guess that with this group of defense attorneys, that’s not gonna happen,” Morrissey commented during the hearing.

Baldwin attorney Alex Spiro countered, “I’ve never not picked a jury in one day. I can’t imagine that this would be the first time.”

Dozens of prospective jurors will be brought into the courtroom for questioning on Tuesday morning. Cameras that will broadcast the rest of the proceedings will be turned off to protect their privacy. The jurors are expected to receive the case after a nine-day trial.

Attorneys will have the right to request the dismissal of jurors for conflicts or other causes. The defense is permitted, by state law, to dismiss up to five jurors without stating a reason, while the prosecution can dismiss three. Additional challenges will be allowed when four alternate jurors are chosen.

Before Marlowe Sommer’s ruling on Monday, prosecutors intended to emphasize Baldwin’s safety obligations on the set as a co-producer to support an alternative theory of guilt beyond his supposed negligent use of a firearm. They sought to link Baldwin’s behavior to “total disregard or indifference for the safety of others” under the involuntary manslaughter law.

Nevertheless, the prosecution secured other successes on Monday. They effectively argued for the exclusion of summary findings from a state workplace safety investigation that assigned much of the blame to the film’s assistant director, thereby deflecting fault from Baldwin.

The judge also ruled that they could present graphic images from Hutchins’ autopsy and footage from police lapel cameras during her injury treatment.

Source: AP News