Alec Baldwin’s Rust film set shooting trial begins today – here are the key things you need to know | Ents & Arts News


The high-profile trial of Hollywood star Alec Baldwin over the fatal shooting on the set of the Western film Rust is due to get under way in the US today.

It has been almost three years since Halyna Hutchins died after a gun held by the actor went off during a rehearsal in a church on set in New Mexico in October 2021.

Baldwin, 66, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

He has pleaded not guilty and said he was unaware the gun contained a live round. He has always maintained he pulled back the gun’s hammer – but not the trigger – and the weapon fired accidentally.

The actor appeared in court for a pre-trial hearing yesterday, and the trial is going ahead despite motions for the case to be dismissed by his legal team. It is taking place at the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico in Santa Fe – about 20 miles northeast of the film set and the shooting.

Here is everything you need to know.

Police recover bullet fired from gun actor used by Alec Baldwin
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The incident happened in a church on the film set near Santa Fe, New Mexico

What happens today?

The trial starts with jury selection to choose the 12 citizens from Santa Fe County who will hear the evidence. This process is expected to take up all of today’s time in court, with opening statements from the prosecution and defence set to begin tomorrow.

However, if jury selection is completed quickly, there is a chance the statements could be pulled forward to this afternoon, New Mexico time. The hearing is set to begin each day at 8.30am, which is 3.30pm in the UK.

What jurors have to decide

Prosecutors have two alternative standards for proving the charge; one is based on the negligent use of a firearm, the other is proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Baldwin acted with total disregard or indifference for the safety of others.

Jurors will have to reach just one verdict – guilty or not guilty – on a single count.

Defendant Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, former armorer on the set of the movie "Rust", walks back to her seat after speaking with District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer before her trial at District Court, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in Santa Fe, N.M. Gutierrez-Reed is charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence in the October 2021 death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during the filming of the Western. (Luis Sánchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, Pool)
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Hannah Gutierrez was the armourer in charge of weapons on set. Pic: Luis Sanchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP

The others charged over the shooting

The film’s armourer, Hannah Gutierrez, and assistant director and safety co-ordinator Dave Halls, were also charged following Ms Hutchins’ death.

Gutierrez, who was responsible for weapons on set, is in the process of appealing after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter following a separate trial earlier this year.

She was 24 at the time of the incident and Rust was her second assignment as an armourer for a feature film.

Following her conviction, Gutierrez said she had tried to do her best on the set despite not having “proper time, resources and staffing”.

Halls, whose credits include The Matrix Reloaded, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon in 2023. He received a suspended sentence of six months of probation.

Witnesses

There were 12 people inside the church set on the day of the shooting. Some will testify during the trial, and the witness lists also include numerous police and FBI investigators and firearms experts who examined the gun involved.

Gutierrez is listed as a potential witness on the prosecution’s list, although her lawyers have said she does not wish to incriminate herself as she appeals her conviction and will not answer questions on the stand.

Rust’s director and writer Joel Souza, who was wounded in the shooting, is also listed by the prosecution, alongside Ross Addiego, a front-line crew member who built and operated systems for guiding the film’s camera, Zac Sneesby, a sound engineer and boom operator who has worked on other projects including Stranger Things, camera operator Reid Russell, and script supervisor Mamie Mitchell.

Halls is listed as a potential witness for the defence, alongside other crew members including Lucas Hussack and Karen Kuehn, a stills photographer.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed in a shooting on the set of the western film Rust. Pic: Swen Studios/ Reuters
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Halyna Hutchins was considered a rising star in her field. Pic: Swen Studios/ Reuters

Will Baldwin give evidence?

According to the latest witness documents publicly available, filed on 24 June, the actor is not listed, so at the minute it is unclear whether or not he will take the stand.

Star defence

The actor is represented by Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro, both graduates of Harvard Law School and partners in the New York office at Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan, one of the world’s largest law firms.

Mr Nikas is best known for his work in the art world, having recovered works by Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso. Mr Spiro previously served as a Manhattan prosecutor and his client list while in private practice has included Elon Musk and Jay-Z.

“We look forward to our day in court,” they have said previously.

Trial timetable

The trial is listed for nine working days so is forecast to end on Friday 19 July, and Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer has said she will keep lawyers in line and on schedule. However, once jurors are sent out to deliberate they may take longer than the allotted time, and the case would then run on for longer.

What is Baldwin best known for?

Born Alexander Rae Baldwin, the 66-year-old is the eldest of the four Baldwin brothers – Daniel, Stephen and Billy – who all went in to acting.

After appearances in TV shows such as the US soap Knots Landing, he emerged as a major movie star in the late 1980s and early ’90s in films including Beetlejuice, The Hunt For Red October, Glengarry Glen Ross and A Streetcar Named Desire. In 2004, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the Oscars for his performance in The Cooler.

Comedy dominated his later career as he won two Emmys for playing network executive Jack Donaghy on six seasons of 30 Rock, and a third for playing Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live. He also memorably appeared in Friends as the endlessly enthusiastic Parker, a boyfriend of Phoebe, for two episodes.

He has been married to his wife, Hilaria, since 2012, and the couple have seven young children. He also has an older daughter, Ireland Baldwin, with his ex-wife Kim Basinger.

Who was Halyna Hutchins?

The 42-year-old cinematographer and mother-of-one grew up on an army base in the Russian Arctic, where her father served in the navy, before moving to Los Angeles to study film.

In 2015, Ms Hutchins graduated from the American Film Institute and in 2019 was named a rising star by the American Cinematographer trade magazine.

According to IMDb, she also won the English Riviera Film Festival’s Jury prize for best cinematography for the short film Treacle in 2019.



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