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Jury Selection Begins in Alec Baldwin’s Manslaughter Trial

Jury selection for Alec Baldwin’s manslaughter trial is set to commence on Tuesday. This trial originates from the tragic 2021 incident where a crew member was fatally shot on the set of “Rust” in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The actor was in the midst of practicing a cross-draw in a church scene for the Western film when a Colt .45 revolver abruptly discharged a live round. The bullet tragically struck and killed Halyna Hutchins, a 42-year-old cinematographer.

Baldwin, aged 66, was not just an actor but also a producer on the film. Earlier this year, he was indicted by a grand jury on charges of involuntary manslaughter regarding Hutchins’ death, despite prosecutors initially dropping the charge. Baldwin has since pleaded not guilty to the indictment.

Jury selection is projected to take just one day, with the trial expected to run through July 19.

Baldwin has continuously stated that he did not pull the trigger. However, the FBI’s forensic report countered this claim, indicating that the gun could not have fired without the trigger being engaged.

Prosecutors aimed to make a case that Baldwin, as a producer, was responsible for the unsafe conditions present on set. Nonetheless, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommers ruled against this argument during an evidence hearing held on Monday.

Defense attorney Luke Nikas contended that alleging Baldwin’s responsibility due to recklessness in his producer role would be “far more prejudicial than it is probative,” and thus should be excluded. On the flip side, Prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson argued it was pertinent to demonstrate to the jury that Baldwin, as a producer, was “aware of his safety obligations” and possessed the “power to control safety on set.”

In her ruling, Marlowe Sommers stated that the probative value did not significantly outweigh the risk of unfair prejudice and the potential for jury confusion. The judge also decreed that certain evidence, such as footage from the “Rust” set depicting Baldwin’s firearm handling, could be admitted into trial. However, videos of Baldwin yelling or hurrying the crew were deemed irrelevant to the case.

In the lead-up to the trial, Baldwin’s defense team filed multiple motions seeking the dismissal of his indictment, all of which were denied.

Last month, Marlowe Sommers also denied the state’s request to use immunity in compelling testimony from the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, during Baldwin’s trial. Gutierrez, aged 27, had been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in relation to the shooting and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, the maximum possible sentence, in April. She has since appealed her conviction.

Prosecutors sought immunity so her testimony could not be used against her in her appeal. In a pretrial interview in May, Gutierrez invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Marlowe Sommers noted that Gutierrez indicated an unwillingness to testify and that she hadn’t heard anything Gutierrez might testify to that someone else could not.

Guiterrez may still be called to testify but would do so without immunity.

Additionally, Marlowe Sommers approved testimony from a “Rust” crew member who claimed to have witnessed Baldwin pull the trigger during the shooting incident.

Other potential witnesses from both the defense and the prosecution include David Halls, the film’s safety coordinator, who was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation in connection to the shooting, and “Rust” director Joel Souza, who was also struck by the live bullet. Both had testified during Gutierrez’s trial.

During the previous trial involving Gutierrez, footage was shown of Baldwin in action, including shots of him firing a gun after the director had called “cut.” Prosecutor Kari Morrissey highlighted Baldwin’s role in the incident during her closing argument, stating, “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. Not with you and not today.”

Source: Reuters, ABC News, Getty Images