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Opening Statements Begin in Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ Trial
Alec Baldwin attended court in Santa Fe for the selection of a jury who will decide if he should go to jail over the death of ‘Rust’ cinematographer Halyna Hutchins /AFP

Alec Baldwin’s long-anticipated trial for involuntary manslaughter is set to begin with opening statements at a courthouse in New Mexico on Wednesday. This trial stems from a tragic incident on the set of the Western film “Rust” in October 2021 when a gun Baldwin was handling discharged a live round, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding the film’s director.

Baldwin, now 66, has maintained that he was unaware the gun was loaded with live ammunition and denies pulling the trigger. Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey, who previously secured a conviction for film armorer Hannah Gutierrez, is now focusing on Baldwin. Gutierrez received an 18-month prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, Baldwin faces the same potential punishment.
Members of the media assembled from around the world outside the courthouse in the southwestern state of New Mexico /AFP

With global media attention on the case, Morrissey aims to demonstrate that Baldwin violated basic gun safety protocols and to portray him as a reckless movie star. Baldwin has already participated in the jury selection process in Santa Fe, which resulted in the selection of 11 women and five men, including alternates.

Baldwin’s legal defense, led by celebrity lawyer Alex Spiro, spent much of the jury selection mitigating any potential bias jurors might have regarding Baldwin’s fame and previous portrayals, such as his impersonation of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live”. The defense’s strategy will likely position Baldwin as an actor who neither knew the gun’s condition nor had a responsibility to check it.

The judge has excluded any arguments or evidence related to Baldwin’s producer role on “Rust.”

Halyna Hutchins, the 42-year-old cinematographer tragically killed in the incident, hailed from Ukraine and had grown up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle. The fatal accident occurred during a rehearsal in a small chapel at Bonanza Creek Ranch. At the time, Baldwin was rehearsing a scene where his character, a cornered outlaw, draws his Colt six-shooter. Baldwin asserts he was instructed by Hutchins to aim the revolver in her direction when it misfired.
US actor Alec Baldwin (center-right) arrives for jury selection in his trial for involuntary manslaughter in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 9, 2024 /AFP

Following the opening arguments, the court will hear from witnesses, including “Rust” director Joel Souza, who was wounded during the incident. Other potential witnesses encompass David Halls, the film’s first assistant director who pleaded guilty to negligence to avoid prison time, and prop firearms supplier Seth Kenney.

It remains uncertain whether Baldwin will testify in his defense. The trial is expected to conclude by the end of next week, followed by jury deliberations.
If found guilty, Alec Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison /AFP

With the stakes high, the world watches as Alec Baldwin confronts the possibility of imprisonment over the tragic death of Halyna Hutchins.

Source: AFP