Alec Baldwin’s Rust manslaughter trial begins today: All about the case, the victim and what happens if he’s convicted | Hollywood

Almost three years after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed on the New Mexico set of the film Rust, actor Alec Baldwin is going on trial over her death. Despite a series of back-and-forth between prosecutors and the defense, the trial will begin on Tuesday where jurors will decide whether the actor is guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Also read: From ‘Red October’ to ’30 Rock,’ a look at Alec Baldwin’s career on eve of ‘Rust’ shooting trial

Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria have agreed to a reality show featuring them and their children that is scheduled to start next year.
Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria have agreed to a reality show featuring them and their children that is scheduled to start next year.

As the trial starts, let’s take a recap of everything we know about the case till now.

What happened

Alec Baldwin, the star and co-producer of the Western, was rehearsing a scene with the revolver that required him to point the weapon at the camera when it allegedly went off, as per the warrant. He was rehearsing in a small church on the movie set at Bonanza Creek Ranch when the gun went off. The shot struck Halyna Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza in the shoulder. She was transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. The incident took place on October 21, 2021.

Who was Halyna Hutchins?

Halyna Hutchins was 42 when she died. The mother of one was a cinematographer on the rise when she was killed. She grew up on a remote Soviet military base and worked on documentary films in Eastern Europe before studying film in Los Angeles and embarking on a career in showbiz.

Charges against Alec Baldwin

In January 2023, the prosecutors of Santa Fe County initiated criminal proceedings against Alec Baldwin, charging him with involuntary manslaughter in relation to the death of Halyna Hutchins. Following a comprehensive review of the available evidence and the applicable laws of New Mexico, Mary Carmack-Altwies, the First Judicial District Attorney, formally declared in an online statement that sufficient evidence existed to warrant the filing of criminal charges against both Alec Baldwin and additional members of the Rust film crew. However, in a subsequent development in April 2023, the prosecutors made the decision to dismiss the charge, while leaving open the possibility of refiling it in the future. Following a new analysis of the gun, Alec was again charged with involuntary manslaughter after a grand jury indicted him in January 2024.

Prosecutors at the previous trial of Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed alleged that she was responsible. She was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

What was the last attempt to get the case dismissed

Recently, Alec’s attorneys’ tried to have the case thrown out due to damage to the on-set revolver during FBI forensic testing. “We can never use our own expert to examine the original state of that firearm,” said his attorney John Bash, adding, “It’s not fair that a criminal defendant doesn’t get that opportunity”. However, New Mexico Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer rejected the request on June 28, saying that Alec’s lawyers did not offer any evidence, “beyond speculation” that the gun could have exonerated him.

What are the charges in the new trial

In the forthcoming trial, the prosecution has leveled alternative charges against Alec. This signifies that the jury will deliberate upon two distinct matters: whether to convict him of involuntary manslaughter and, if so, under which specific definition of involuntary manslaughter his actions fall. He could also be found guilty of negligent use of the firearm, or for circumspection, meaning he acted in a manner that was indifferent or showed disregard for the safety of others.

What’s Alec’s stance

The actor has maintained that while he did pull back the hammer, the gun went off without pulling the trigger. Baldwin said in an interview with ABC News, and implied in interviews with authorities, that he never pulled the revolver’s trigger.

What is Alec Baldwin’s defense

Alec Baldwin is bringing with him an elite legal team of mostly New York-based attorneys. Alex Spiro, an attorney who has represented Elon Musk, Megan Thee Stallion and other prominent figures, will give aggressive cross-examination to the state’s witnesses. His team will try to show that it is not the job of an actor to make sure real rounds are not in his gun. This position has been supported by Alec’s union, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

His lawyers will also attack the gun evidence, and the serious damage done to the revolver during an FBI test they say amounted to the destruction of evidence and left the defense no chance to examine it. It is believed that they may question witnesses over whether Halyna Hutchins got proper medical treatment between the shooting and the declaration of her death at a hospital.

What we know about the prosecution team

Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies appointed Kari Morrissey as a special prosecutor in the case in early 2023 after her predecessor stepped down because of conflicts of interest. The trial could have fiery hearings — something witnessed in the past.

In the forthcoming trial, the prosecution will endeavor to persuade the jurors that as both a producer and an active participant on set, Alec Baldwin displayed a reckless disregard for the safety protocols and guidelines established for the production. Additionally, they will argue that as an actor, he exhibited negligence in his handling of the firearm, which directly contributed to the tragic incident.

Who’s expected to testify at the Alec Baldwin trial

The crew members inside the church building who became eye-witnesses to the shooting incident will testify. The list include names such as director Joel Souza, who was himself shot and injured by the bullet from Alec’s gun, and assistant director David Halls, the film’s assistant director, who some said was responsible for the shooting. David pleaded no contest to negligent handling of a firearm. And Alec himself can take the stand in his defense.

As per the prosecutors, Zac Sneesby, a crew member who was holding a boom microphone during the rehearsal, will testify that he saw Alec pull the trigger of the revolver. Prosecutors also may call Hannah Gutierrez-Reed to the stand. Jurors will also hear testimony from firearms experts who allege the revolver was working properly could not have fired without pulling the trigger.

What jurors must decide

Now, the 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 Alec Baldwin acted with total disregard or indifference for the safety of others.

How long is the trial expected to last

The trial at the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico is expected to last nine days, as Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer insisted that she’ll keep the lawyers in line and on schedule. The opening statements will be held on Wednesday, and the expected end can be on Friday.

Where will the trial be held

The actor is entering a New Mexico courtroom for the first time since the October 21, 2021 shooting. He is charged with felony involuntary manslaughter.

What happens if he is convicted

If convicted, Alec Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison. The actor-producer could also face other legal challenges. Civil lawsuits filed against Alec and other film producers have temporarily been put on hold by the judge, who said they would present the charges to a grand jury.

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