Alec Baldwin’s trial for involuntary manslaughter begins jury selection


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Jury selection begins today, Tuesday July 9, for Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial for the death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Baldwin was the star and producer of the low budget indie that was filming in New Mexico in October 2021, when he was handed a prop gun and told it was “cold,” meaning it had no ammo (even blanks). But then in rehearsals the gun fired. Hutchins died from the shooting, while director Joel Souza survived his injuries. Baldwin and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, were both charged with involuntary manslaughter in January 2023, Baldwin’s charges were later dropped, and then he was indicted again at the beginning of this year. Gutierrez-Reed was recently found guilty and given the maximum possible sentence of 18 months in prison. And now Baldwin is that much closer to his own day in court:

Jury selection begins today: Nearly three years after the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico film set of “Rust,” actor Alec Baldwin is set to stand trial. Baldwin is charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in the deadly incident that also injured the film’s director, Joel Souza. Jury selection for Baldwin’s criminal trial begins Tuesday. It’s unclear if the actor will take the stand to testify.

Trigger vs misfire: Baldwin has maintained in multiple interviews that he did not pull the trigger and that the gun misfired a bullet. Baldwin told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he was taking direction from Hutchins and pulled the hammer back as far as he could without cocking it. But in 2022, results from FBI testing of the .45-caliber Colt prop revolver stated that the gun would not have gone off without the trigger having been pulled. Just last month, Baldwin’s attorneys asked the judge to throw out the case, saying the firearm was badly damaged during forensic testing at the FBI lab, but the motion was denied. Baldwin was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter and a firearm enhancement charge. But the firearm enhancement charge was eventually dropped. It reduced his potential prison sentence by five years.

Will Gutierrez-Reed testify? At the time of Baldwin’s initial charges, the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for overseeing the weapons on set, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. She was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in April and is currently serving an 18-month jail sentence. Gutierrez-Reed was called upon to testify in Baldwin’s upcoming trial but she asserted her Fifth Amendment right not to answer any questions pertaining to Baldwin during her pretrial interview in May. It is unclear if she will testify if called to the stand.

The assistant director is expected to testify: Meanwhile, Dave Halls, the assistant director on set who pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation, is expected to take the stand. In interviews, Baldwin maintained that Halls declared the gun “cold,” meaning it had no live ammunition before it was handed to Baldwin.

Prosecutors say Baldwin’s story has changed: But the prosecutors accused Baldwin of offering contradictory versions of events to law enforcement and in the media about whether he pulled the trigger and whether he was taking direction from Hutchins. “In sum, every time Mr. Baldwin spoke, a different version of events emerged from his mouth,” said a court filing this spring from the special prosecutors.

[From NBC News]

For what it’s worth, I’ve looked back through our own coverage, as well as source material since the accident happened on October 21, 2021, and what I found was Baldwin consistently maintaining that he did not pull the trigger. It was outlets reporting on the incident in the immediate aftermath that used broad language like “Baldwin fired a gun.” Of course, there may be statements the prosecutors are privy to that I am not, where Baldwin does in fact contradict himself.

With regards to his culpability, that’s complicated by the fact that Baldwin wasn’t just the star, but also a producer. If he were just there as an actor, it’d be much clearer to determine not guilty: it was the armorer’s job to supervise the safe and proper use of all prop weapons on set, and an actor has a reasonable expectation that the crew is telling him the truth when they say he’s handling an unloaded gun. But as a producer, the prosecution can argue that the buck stops with Baldwin for hiring a competent armorer. The thing is, there are many different levels of producers on a film. I don’t know how this forming-as-we-speak jury will view Baldwin’s role and responsibility. I will say that it sure doesn’t seem like the perfect time to launch a personal reality show. Or who knows, maybe it is. ¿quién sabe?

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