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What to Know About the Case Against Alec Baldwin Ahead of the ‘Rust’ Shooting Trial

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The case against actor Alec Baldwin, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter following a fatal on-set shooting for the film Rust in 2021, is set for trial in July despite a series of back-and-forth between prosecutors and the defense.

Defense attorneys' most-recently attempted to have the case thrown out due to damage to the on-set revolver during FBI forensic testing. “We can never use our own expert to examine the original state of that firearm,” said attorney John Bash, who represents Baldwin. “It’s not fair that a criminal defendant doesn’t get that opportunity.”

New Mexico Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer rejected the request on June 28, saying that Baldwin’s lawyers did not offer any evidence, “beyond speculation” that the gun could have exonerated him. Jury selection for the case is set to take place on July 9.

Baldwin, 66, has maintained that he did not pull the trigger on the prop gun he was pointing at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, which went off and killed the 42-year-old. The shot also wounded director Joel Souza in October 2021.

If convicted, Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison. The actor-producer could also face other legal challenges. Civil lawsuits filed against Baldwin and other film producers have temporarily been put on hold by the judge, who said they would present the charges to a grand jury. 

Here’s what to know about the upcoming case. 

What happened

Film armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed on the Rust set loaded a revolver with what were believed to be “dummy rounds,” which have no explosives in them, according to Gutierrez-Reed’s attorneys. 

While rehearsing on the set, Dave Halls, the assistant director for the film, grabbed a prop gun that he then handed to Baldwin. Halls called the firearm a “cold gun,” a phrase that signals that the weapon did not have any live rounds in it, according to a warrant by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office. Baldwin was rehearsing a scene with the revolver that required him to point the weapon at the camera when it allegedly went off, per the warrant. The shot struck Hutchins in the chest and Souza in the shoulder.

Hutchins was transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. 

Charges against Baldwin

Santa Fe County prosecutors first charged Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter for Hutchins’ death in Jan. 2023. “After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the ‘Rust’ film crew,” New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies said in an online statement at the time. But prosecutors later dismissed the charge in April 2023, though they said that charges could be refiled.

Following a new analysis of the gun, Baldwin was once more charged with involuntary manslaughter after a grand jury indicted him in January 2024. Baldwin has pleaded not guilty.

In the upcoming trial, prosecutors have charged Baldwin in the alternative, which means that the jury will decide both whether to convict him of involuntary manslaughter, and under which definition of involuntary manslaughter his actions fall. He could be found guilty of negligent use of the firearm, or for circumspection, meaning he acted in a manner that was indifferent or showed disregard for the safety of others. 

Baldwin has maintained that while he did pull back the hammer, the gun went off without pulling the trigger. 

The FBI conducted an accidental discharge test on the weapon which required the firearm to be struck by a rawhide mallet. The gun broke during the process, which is why Baldwin’s prosecutors attempted to get the case dismissed. Under a different analysis of the revolver by Lucien Haag of Forensic Science Services, the investigation concluded that “the trigger had to be “pulled or depressed sufficiently” for the weapon to go off.  

There has been much conversation about a lack of safety protocols on the Rust film set. According to the Los Angeles Times, at least six crew members walked off set during the making of the movie because of working conditions, including gun safety. An investigation by the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) found that Rust “expos[ed] employees to the serious hazards associated with firearm use.” In Feb. 2023, Rust Movie Productions, LLC. settled with the OHSB and paid a $100,000 penalty.

Rust resumed filming in April 2023 after a wrongful death suit was settled against the production company alongside several others people involved in the film following the Hutchins' death. As part of the settlement, Matthew Hutchins, Hutchins’ husband, took the role of executive producer on set.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed 

Aside from the impending case against Baldwin, Gutierrez-Reed was also charged with involuntary manslaughter, as well as tampering with evidence. (The latter charge came after the defendant allegedly gave narcotics to someone to “prevent the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of herself,” according to the amended criminal complaint filed by prosecutors.) Gutierrez-Reed was convicted on the involuntary manslaughter charge, but acquitted of evidence tampering in March 2024. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Prosecutors are hoping to call her to testify during Baldwin’s trial, though Gutierrez-Reed invoked her Fifth Amendment rights during a pretrial interview. Prosecutors have asked the court to grant her “use immunity” so that anything she says on trial cannot be used against her in any future prosecution, which the court denied.  

Her attorney’s are in the midst of seeking Gutierrez-Reed’s immediate release from prison and have asked for a new trial because prosecutors did not hand over “bombshell exculpatory evidence” which they say could have led to a different outcome in the case. 

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