Alec Baldwin 'Rust' trial to hear opening statements

AFP , Wednesday 10 Jul 2024

Alec Baldwin's long-awaited trial for involuntary manslaughter over a fatal shooting on the set of Western movie "Rust" will hear opening statements at a New Mexico courthouse on Wednesday.

Alec Baldwin
US actor Alec Baldwin listens to testimony during a pretrial hearing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 8, 2024. AFP

 

The Hollywood A-lister was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a fateful rehearsal in October 2021 when it fired a live round, killing her and wounding the movie's director.

Baldwin, 66, says he did not know the gun was loaded and did not pull the trigger.

Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey has already ensured that the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

She has now set her sights on Baldwin, who could face the same term if found guilty.

Under the scrutiny of global media, Morrissey will outline the state's case that Baldwin broke basic gun safety rules, and try to paint a picture of a powerful movie star acting recklessly on set.

Baldwin has already been in attendance in Santa Fe this week for the selection of a jury -- 11 women and five men, including alternates -- who will decide if he should go to prison over the incident.

His celebrity lawyer Alex Spiro spent much of the jury selection process Tuesday reminding potential jurors that their feelings about Baldwin's star status and acting career -- including his Donald Trump impersonations for "Saturday Night Live" -- cannot influence their verdicts.

Spiro and his team are expected to portray Baldwin as a victim who did not know the gun was loaded, did not pull the trigger, and was not responsible for checking the weapon in his role as an actor.

The judge has ruled that arguments or evidence concerning Baldwin's additional role as a producer on "Rust" are not admissible.

Victim
 

Hutchins -- a talented 42-year-old cinematographer originally from Ukraine, who grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle -- was killed in October 2021.

The accident occurred during a rehearsal in a small chapel on the Bonanza Creek Ranch, on a sunny afternoon mid-way through the filming of "Rust."

Baldwin was practicing a scene in which his character, an aging outlaw who has been cornered in the church by two marshals, draws his Colt six-shooter.

The actor says he was told the gun was safe, and was instructed by Hutchins to aim the revolver in her direction, when it misfired.

Live bullets are in any case banned from movie sets.

Witnesses
 

Following Wednesday's opening arguments, the jury will hear testimony from witnesses expected to include Joel Souza, the "Rust" director who was wounded in the shooting.

Other possible witnesses include David Halls -- the film's first assistant director, who pled guilty to negligence in a deal that ensured he avoided prison time -- and prop firearms supplier Seth Kenney.

It is not yet known if Baldwin plans to take the stand in his defense.

The entire trial is scheduled to conclude Friday of next week, with jury deliberations to follow.

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