Alec Baldwin on opening day of 'Rust' trial

Source: Screenshot from Court TV

Alec Baldwin on opening day of ‘Rust’ trial

Prosecutors and defence attorneys have presented opening remarks on the first day of Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial in relation to the death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust.

Prosecutor Erlinda Johnson told a jury in the New Mexico courtroom on Wednesday morning they must find Baldwin guilty after he did not perform a safety check before a Colt .45 prop gun went off in his hands during rehearsal at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 21, 2021.

A live bullet shot out of the gun and hit Hutchins who later died that day in hospital aged 42, and injured director Joel Souza.

“He pointed the gun at another human being, cocked the hammer and pulled that trigger, in reckless disregard for Ms. Hutchins’ safety,” Johnson said, adding that she will present evidence showing the actor drew the gun three times in rehearsal, and every time his finger was “on or around the trigger”.

Baldwin’s attorney Alex Spiro said his client did nothing wrong and believed he was handling a harmless prop after it was given to him by the production’s armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director and head of safety Dave Halls called “cold gun”, indicating it was safe to use on set.

“Cold guns can’t hurt people,” said Spiro. “It’s impossible.” He later said, “There will not be one shred of evidence that Alec knew or should have known there was a live round…Actors don’t check the weapons; safety is ensured by personnel.”

The defence attorney said after the gun went off, Baldwin and everyone on set was in shock and the shock turned to panic. The police were called, at which point Spiro noted several irregularities in the handling of evidence.

The gun was secured “without gloves” and was destroyed during the investigation, he said. The prop cart was moved into the crime scene and people touched it; the prop truck was not secured for several days, and the prop house was not secured for several months.

Spiro repeated that Baldwin was an actor on set, and it was not his job to ensure the Colt .45 was safe to use; that information would come from the armourer and safety personnel on set. The attorney added that Baldwin immediately wanted to cooperate with police, and to this day remains a man in “shocking grief”.

Even if he intentionally pulled the trigger, Spiro noted, that would not make him guilty of homicide as he was merely behaving as an actor would be expected to behave on set under the guidance of safety personnel.

Baldwin, 66, has pleaded not guilty to two charges of involuntary manslaughter. He faces up to 18 months in prison if found guilty.

Gutierrez-Reed is serving an 18-month sentence after she was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in March and a jury found she ought to have known of the danger posed by her actions and that she acted with “wilful disregard for the safety of others”. She reportedly plans to appeal the verdict.

Halls struck a plea bargain with prosecutors last year, when he was convicted of unsafe handling of a firearm and sentenced to six months of probation.

The trial is expected to last eight days.