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Trial Starts for Fatal Shooting on Film Set

Trial Starts for Fatal Shooting on Film Set

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Nearly three years after the tragic incident on the set of “Rust,” actor Alec Baldwin is set to face trial in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the accidental shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The trial for involuntary manslaughter commences on Wednesday.

Erlinda Ocampo Johnson, a defense lawyer appointed by the Santa Fe District Attorney’s office as one of the special prosecutors, will present the opening statement. She will outline the sequence of events that transpired on the “Rust” set and the state’s reasoning behind charging Baldwin with the crime.

The state aims to prove Baldwin acted “recklessly, wantonly, and willfully” when he pointed his Colt .45 at Hutchins and fired. To support their case, prosecutors plan to demonstrate that Baldwin indeed discharged the firearm. Several forensic experts and Alessandro Pietta, the gun’s manufacturer from Italy, are expected to testify regarding the gun’s condition.

Baldwin’s defense will argue that he did not act with “wanton” or “willful” disregard for Hutchins’ safety, as he had no reason to believe the firearm held live ammunition. Lead defense attorney Alex Spiro hinted at their argument during jury selection, questioning if it is reasonable to rely on firearm experts in such situations. The defense will contend that Baldwin trusted Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the film’s armorer, to ensure the weapon was safe, and Dave Halls, the first assistant director, to guarantee overall set safety.

Baldwin has claimed Halls declared the gun “cold” before handing it to him, signifying it was safe and unloaded, though Halls’ recollection differs.

Both the prosecution and defense are expected to use exhibits such as videos, photos, and audio recordings. Johnson will likely show officer bodycam footage depicting the scene when deputies arrived at the church on the Bonanza Creek Ranch. She is also expected to present pictures of Hutchins and the firearm, as well as clips from “Rust” that show Baldwin handling the gun.

The defense will counter with their exhibits, including audio from the 911 call describing the shooting as “accidental.”

The prosecution will start by calling witnesses to build their case, beginning with the deputies first on the scene. The state has listed 44 witnesses but is unlikely to call all of them. A critical witness is director Joel Souza, who was wounded during the incident. Souza completed the filming of “Rust” with Baldwin in Montana in 2023 and has reached a settlement for his injury claims against the production.

The defense’s witness list comprises 14 individuals, including Dave Halls and Robert Shilling, a former investigator for the Santa Fe district attorney’s office. The defense will also call on Ryan Winterstern, one of the film’s producers.

The state has five days to present its case, followed by three days for the defense. Closing arguments are expected to take place on July 19.

Baldwin has given multiple interviews since the shooting. He spoke to detectives, a workplace safety investigator, and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. These interviews may be presented to the jury during the trial. It remains uncertain if Baldwin will testify to provide further explanation, which would subject him to cross-examination.

Source: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter