NewsNational NewsScripps News

Actions

Armorer in fatal 'Rust' shooting involving Alec Baldwin faces trial

Weapons supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is accused of bringing live ammunition onto the film set that was responsible for killing Halyna Hutchins.
Armorer in fatal 'Rust' shooting involving Alec Baldwin faces trial
Posted at 8:39 AM, Feb 21, 2024

Prosecutors in New Mexico want more accountability for the 2021 death of a cinematographer who was fatally shot by actor Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal for the Western film “Rust.”

Before Baldwin's case progresses, the armorer on the set will be tried on charges of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. Jury selection in Hannah Gutierrez-Reed's trial starts Wednesday in Santa Fe.

Gutierrez-Reed has pleaded not guilty to the charges and maintains she's not directly to blame for Halyna Hutchins' death. Baldwin also has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge in a separate case.

Prosecutors say they'll present evidence that Gutierrez-Reed loaded a live round into the gun that killed Hutchins after unknowingly bringing live ammunition onto a set where it was expressly prohibited. They contend the armorer missed multiple opportunities to ensure safety on the movie set.

SEE MORE: Prosecutors: Weapons expert in Alec Baldwin case was hungover on set

The evidence and testimony has implications for Baldwin, who was pointing a gun at Hutchins during an October 2021 rehearsal outside Santa Fe when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

Gutierrez-Reed faces up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. The evidence tampering charge stems from accusations she handed a small bag of possible narcotics to another crew member after the shooting to avoid detection by law enforcement.

Her attorneys say that charge is prosecutors' attempt to smear Gutierrez-Reed's character. The bag was thrown away without testing the contents, defense attorneys said.

More than 40 people are listed as witnesses during the trial that's scheduled to run through March 6.

Special prosecutors say they will present “substantial evidence” that Gutierrez-Reed unwittingly brought live rounds onto the set. They also argued in court filings that Hutchins died because of a series of negligent acts by Gutierrez-Reed, and say that she should have noticed live rounds and intervened long before the shooting.

Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys say she’s unfairly been scapegoated. They contend live rounds arrived on set from an Albuquerque-based supplier of dummy rounds. They also pointed to a broader “atmosphere” of safety failures that were uncovered during an investigation by state workplace safety inspectors that go beyond Gutierrez-Reed.

SEE MORE: Alec Baldwin speaks out for first time after fatal shooting on set

Additionally, Gutierrez-Reed is accused in another case of carrying a gun into a bar in downtown Santa Fe in violation of state law. Her attorneys say that charge has been used to try to pressure Gutierrez-Reed into a false confession about the handling of live ammunition on the “Rust” set.

The company Rust Movie Productions paid a $100,000 fine to the state following a scathing narrative of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols. The report included testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before Hutchins was shot.

Prosecutors urged a judge to keep regulators’ conclusions out of the trial because those might be used to argue that “Rust” management was responsible for safety failures, not Gutierrez-Reed.

The judge in the case sided last week with Gutierrez-Reed. The report says the production company did not develop a process for ensuring live rounds were kept away from the set and that it failed to give the armorer enough time to thoroughly inventory ammunition.

Baldwin, the lead actor and a co-producer on “Rust,” was indicted in January on an involuntary manslaughter charge. Baldwin has said he pulled back the gun's hammer — but not the trigger — and the weapon fired.

The charge against Baldwin provides two alternative standards for prosecution, one based on the negligent use of a firearm and another tied to negligence without due caution or “circumspection,” also defined as “total disregard or indifference for the safety of others.” Legal experts say the latter standard could broaden the investigation beyond Baldwin’s handling of the gun.

A trial date hasn't been set for Baldwin.


Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com