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Alec Baldwin Rust Murder Trial: What Are the Charges?

Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial in Rust kicked things off in earnest on Wednesday, July 10, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with opening remarks. Baldwin, 66, is accused of accidentally killing the production’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, on October 21, 2021, while rehearsing a scene. The prosecutor claims that gunner Hannah Gutierrez-Reed gave the gun to Baldwin. The firearm had not been properly checked by Gutierrez-Reed and contained live ammunition, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors allege that Baldwin drew the gun and “pointed the weapon” at Hutchins — disregarding safety practices — and fired. Hutchins was fatally shot and director Joel Souza was injured in the incident. Baldwin has pleaded not guilty in the case.

Since Baldwin was first charged in January 2023, the proceedings have been filled with legal twists and turns, with prosecutors officially dropping the case on April 21, 2023, only for an indictment to come against him in early 2024. The trial is expected to last ten days. Baldwin faces up to 18 months behind bars if convicted. Here’s what to know about the released charges, destroyed weaponand jury selection.

Baldwin’s legal team revealed a major bombshell during proceedings on March 9, 2023 – attorney Alex Spiro argued in court that the gun had been “destroyed by the state” during testing in a way that made it impossible for the defense to examine it. Not only had Baldwin previously insisted he was told the gun was “cold” and not loaded with live bullets, but he also claimed he did not pull the trigger. Baldwin has claimed that the gun was somehow malfunctioned, or altered, so that it could fire without pulling the trigger. In the wake of Baldwin’s defense raising questions about the weapon’s destruction, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the case pending further tests, but did so in a way that did not prevent them from filing charges later.

“Predictably, the forensic tests concluded that the trigger on the gun had to be pulled for the gun to have fired, and the alleged modification to the hammer was simply damage caused when the FBI hit the hammer with the mallet so many times that it eventually damaged the hammer and the burner ,” read one April 5, 2024, submission. After prosecutors’ analysis of the gun was completed, prosecutors said they obtained recordings from Rust set showing that the firearm was in “perfect working condition” each time Baldwin used it. Prosecutors eventually presented the evidence to a grand jury, which returned an involuntary manslaughter indictment against him on January 19, 2024.

On March 6, 2024, 27-year-old Gutierrez-Reed was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. During Gutierrez-Reed’s two-week trial, prosecutors insisted she fatally flouted common sense gun safety protocols. “By failing to make these essential security checks, the defendant acted negligently and without due care,” prosecutor Jason Lewis told the jury. “The decisions she made that day ultimately contributed to Mrs. Hutchins’ death.” He also alluded to Gutierrez-Reed’s own comments during a police interview after the incident. “She says at the end, ‘I just, I don’t know. I wish I had checked it,'” Lewis told jurors. “And so do we.”

Gutierrez-Reed, who has maintained his innocence, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on April 15, 2024. David Halls — who previously pleaded no contest to reckless use of a deadly weapon and received six months of probation — took the stand at Gutierrez-Reed’s trial and said she handed the gun to Baldwin, despite the actor claiming Halls passed the gun to Baldwin.

The judge ruled on July 8, 2024 that prosecutors cannot present evidence of Baldwin’s role as a producer; this is a major boost for the defense, as prosecutors have pushed the theory that his role as producer made him responsible for the safety or culture of the set, further adding to his culpability in Hutchins’ death. “I really have a hard time with the state’s position that they want to show that as a producer he didn’t follow the guidelines and therefore, as an actor, Mr. Baldwin did all these things wrong, resulting in the death of Halyna Hutchins. Because as a producer he allowed all of this to happen” , said Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer on July 8. Sommer was not alone in being a producer, so mentioning his role as a producer might unfairly imply that he was the only manager on the set. producer.” This also seems to mean prosecutors won’t be able to show videos of him rushing cast and crew and controlling the set, so they’ll have to focus on his behavior as an actor on set. Court papers filed in the case offer some insight into prosecutors’ playbook on why they think he’s guilty even just as an actor. Baldwin, “the most experienced member of all the cast and crew,” arrived on set a week after filming started and missed the first weapons training. Instead, Baldwin had a separate instruction with Gutierrez-Reed. “Mr. Baldwin was inattentive during this training and spent time during the training on the phone with his family and making videos of himself shooting the gun for his family’s enjoyment,” they note.

“The combination of Hannah Gutierrez’s negligence and experience and Alec Baldwin’s complete lack of concern for the safety of those around him would prove fatal to Halyna Hutchins…” prosecutors wrote. “Hutchins was shot and killed by Alec Bladwin who pointed a .45-caliber single-action Army revolver at her, cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger when a scene was not being filmed and the cameras were not rolling.”

For Tre Lovell, a longtime civil rights attorney, the separate theories are not a problem for prosecutors. “The real question is: Are the theories incongruent?” he asked. “Are they incompatible? Are they or are they not mutually exclusive?” Lovell said. “It’s possible to have more than one contributory cause of death.” Gutierrez-Reed was found responsible, as the armorer’s job is to ensure gun safety, which a jury determined she did not do also contributed, because he was negligent in the use of a firearm,” Lovell said.

Well, it’s a bit of a long story. Prosecutors gave Baldwin the option of taking “a very favorable plea deal in lieu of having the case go to the grand jury for a possible indictment.” As it turns out, the special counsel appointed to prosecute Baldwin’s case, Erlinda Johnson, is a longtime criminal defense and civil rights attorney. Johnson said in court papers that while prosecutors don’t have to treat all defendants in a case the same, her career has led her to focus on issues “related to fundamental justice.”

Johnson claims that Baldwin’s behavior after the offer made her think differently. When the prosecutor made the offer on October 5, 2023, it was as “confidential and privileged plea bargains.” Johnson, who gave them an Oct. 27, 2023 deadline, claims she received no response from Baldwin’s team. About 10 days after Johnson extended the offer, she learned that one of Baldwin’s lawyers shared details with NBC News, according to court papers.

The prosecutor also claims she learned that Baldwin and his team were trying to run a PR campaign “designed to divert attention” from any possible appeals and bolster his image. She also claims to have learned that Baldwin can accept the offer and then file a complaint against New Mexico authorities “on the same day” as part of the same PR campaign.

Despite this, Johnson says she did not want to withdraw this plea offer just because Baldwin allegedly tried to use the media to his advantage. Johnson said she then learned that Baldwin had commissioned a documentary about Hutchins’ death and was “actively pressuring material witnesses in the case against him to submit to interviews” for that project. “It was at this time that the plea offer was withdrawn and the case was scheduled for the grand jury,” she said. In other words, Baldwin had a chance and blew it, according to prosecutors.

No! And according to court documents, this began long before charges were filed against him. On the same day Hutchins was shot, Baldwin agreed to a formal interview with police. Before the interview began, Baldwin was in the interview room – where cameras with sound were recording – and allegedly made some insensitive comments to his family. Baldwin called his wife — on speakerphone or FaceTime — and an assistant to talk about the family’s planned trip to New Mexico. Baldwin told his family not to cancel their trip despite the incident. “I will not work and we will go and have fun. Everything is paid. They will not give us the money back, he said. Then came the interview. He claimed Gutierrez-Reed gave him the gun — not Hall’s. He said “on two occasions he shot/fired the gun” and that Souza told him where to point the weapon, prosecutors allege. He “never” told police that Hutchins gave instructions about where to point the gun. While he said the gun simply “went off,” because he didn’t believe there was a live round, “he never claimed he didn’t pull the trigger.”

Then there’s Baldwin’s Dec. 3, 2021, interview with George Stephanopoulos, during which “everything changed,” according to prosecutors. They claimed Baldwin “lied with impunity and blamed the incident on Hutchins,” saying she said she told him to point the gun at her in the direction of her armpit. “This statement was in direct contradiction to his earlier statement … in which he clearly stated that Hutchins was struck in the armpit because she turned to speak to someone else.” The interview also marked the first time Baldwin claimed he never pulled the trigger. In an interview with state workplace safety regulators on December 8, 2021, “Baldwin’s story changed again” in which he claimed that Halls—not Gutierrez-Reed—gave him the gun. The jury must pay close attention to the stories.

A total of 16 people were selected to serve as jurors in Baldwin’s case; the group consists of 11 women and five men. Twelve of this group are jury members and four deputies. The public won’t know which people are jurors and which are alternates until both sides finish their cases, according to the Associated Press’s pool report from the courtroom. “Jury selection is important in any case but critically important here,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor whose firm, West Coast Trial Lawyers, routinely handles high-profile cases, explained before the trial began. “The parties will want to ask the prospective jurors questions about gun safety and rights as well as their views on celebrities.”

It actually happened during the selection process. Lead defense attorney Alex Spiro, while questioning potential jurors, emphasized the serious nature of this case, noting that “obviously someone lost their life,” and asked those called to speak up if they had reservations about fairness and impartiality. He also asked if anyone had strong opinions about gun safety. Some possible jurors responded by saying they always handle guns as if they are loaded, according to the pool report.

Even if Baldwin were to be convicted, Rahmani doesn’t think he will go to jail. “I don’t think Baldwin will go to jail if convicted. The New Mexico manslaughter statute has a maximum sentence of 18 months, with no minimum,” Rahmani explained. it’s time for them to argue the sentence in front of the judge. “Baldwin’s lawyers have a good argument that he is no more guilty than assistant director Dave Halls, who reportedly told Baldwin it was a cold gun without checking it and who received an offer of misdemeanor probation.”

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