Alec Baldwin talking to the paparazzi

'Rust' Trial Opening Statements: Prosecution Alleges Alec Baldwin Acted With 'Reckless Disregard' For Safety

Home / News / 'Rust' Trial Opening Statements: Prosecution Alleges Alec Baldwin Acted With 'Reckless Disregard' For Safety

By Kristin Myers on July 10, 2024 at 12:30 PM EDT

Actor Alec Baldwin faced the first day of his involuntary manslaughter trial on Wednesday, July 10.

The "30 Rock" actor is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

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The Prosecution Opens The Trial With Accusations Of Negligence On 'Rust' Set

Alec Baldwin poses with gun and ammo in newly released Rust rehearsal video
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During opening statements, prosecutor Erlinda Johnson alleged that Alec Baldwin would use his firearm to point at people on set and did not follow through with proper gun safety checks on set.

“When someone plays make-believe with a real gun in a real-life workplace and while playing make-believe with that gun, violates the cardinal rules of firearm safety, peoples’ lives are endangered, and someone could be killed,” she said during her opening statement. “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what this case is about. It’s simple. It’s straightforward.”

Prosecutors described what happened on the set of the Western film on October 21, 2021, noting that both Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and first assistant director Dave Halls did a quick check of the gun before handing it to Baldwin.

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Prosecution Says Baldwin Acted With 'Reckless Disregard' For Crew Safety

Alec Baldwin sits down with police for interview following Rust shooting
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Although they were only "blocking" a scene, the prosecution said that Baldwin "did his own thing" and did not follow established safety rules on set. Prosecutors explained how the bullet passed through Halyna Hutchins' shoulder and entered director Joel Souza, where it was removed from his body in a hospital in Santa Fe. While the prosecution was speaking, Baldwin looked down, often writing notes on a pad in front of him.

The prosecution argued that, despite Baldwin's claims, he had to have pulled the trigger in order for the gun to fire, citing a forensics examination done by the FBI that will be presented as evidence later in the trial.

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“He pointed the gun at another human being, cocked the hammer, and pulled that trigger, in reckless disregard for Ms. Hutchins’ safety,” Johnson said. “The only true and just verdict in this case, so that true justice can be served, is a verdict of guilty to involuntary manslaughter."

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Alec Baldwin's Attorney Puts Blame On Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed poses for mugshot after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 'Rust' shooting trial
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Baldwin's attorney Alex Spiro opened the trial by putting the blame on the "Rust" crew and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who is currently serving 18 months after a jury spent less than three hours finding her guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The defense noted that Baldwin was an actor on a movie set playing a dangerous role and noted that a real bullet "has nothing to do with making a movie" and should not have been on the movie set.

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He asked the jury to imagine Hannah Gutierrez-Reed putting the bullet into the gun and noted that they would hear "no evidence whatsoever" that Baldwin had anything to do with putting live ammunition into the gun. He also put the blame on first assistant director Dave Halls, who will testify later in the trial, as the role of the first assistant director was to check the gun before handing it to Baldwin.

"The actor's job is to act. He's Harland Rust. He's an outlaw running for his life," Spiro said of the role before showing a clip of Baldwin entering a church with a younger actor. The actor runs off to get help after saying that Baldwin's character will "die" if he doesn't get help. Later, two outlaws enter the room with their guns trained on him.

Clips Of Alec Baldwin 'Whipping Out' His 'Rust' Gun Shown During Opening Statements

Police in the US have released video footage from the set of the film Rust, including of the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin. Halyna Hutchins, 42, was shot by Mr Baldwin while he rehearsed with what he believed to be a safe gun. Footage, which has no audio, released shows Baldwin dressed as a cowboy rehearsing with a gun ahead of the deadly shooting. He can be seen in stills from that video posing with the gun, and with ammo / ammunition on his costume in a scene set in a church. A clapper board with Ms Hutchins' name on it can also be seen. It's not known if the gun he is holding is the one that fired the deadly bullets. The actor, who was also a producer on the film, previously said he did not pull the trigger and had no idea how a live bullet came to be on the set near Santa Fe in the US state of New Mexico. The Santa Fe County sheriff’s office released a trove of documents released to the investigation this week. 26 Apr 2022 Pictured: Alec Baldwin seen in stills from video footage of Rust rehearsals released by investigators in the US. Photo credit: Santa Fe County Sheriff/MEGA TheMegaAgency.com +1 888 505 6342 (Mega Agency TagID: MEGA851467_005.jpg) [Photo via Mega Agency]
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The clip shows Baldwin asking the cameraman if they were "ready" before the scene resumes and Baldwin gets told to "draw the gun and look up." Baldwin confirms they want him to "whip it out" and then quickly draws the gun. They ask him to whip the gun out again, with Baldwin's attorney noting that there is no danger to anyone on set because the gun should not have been loaded with a live bullet.

A 911 call from the day of the shooting was played for the jury. "Rust" script supervisor Mamie Mitchell was the one who called the police and described it as an "accidental shooting" and put the blame on first assistant director Dave Halls during the call. Alec Baldwin's name was not mentioned.

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"He didn't intentionally pull the trigger. The gun just went off," Spiro continued, noting that the actor has worked in the entertainment industry for over forty years without incident. Describing pulling the trigger as the "wrong question," he said that the prosecution is "blinded" by trying to disprove Baldwin's statement instead of focusing on trying to find out how live ammunition ended up on a movie set.

Alex Spiro concluded his opening statement by saying, "This was an unspeakable tragedy. Alec Baldwin committed no crime." The judge then dismissed the jury for morning recess and reminded the jury not to discuss the evidence presented so far.

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