Alec Baldwin Set to Face Trial for Cinematographer’s Death on ‘Rust’ Set

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Nearly three years subsequent to the tragic incident that claimed the life of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico movie set of “Rust,” actor Alec Baldwin is preparing, at long last, to face trial for her death. To understand the gravity of this incident, a summary of the details both significant and minute is necessary.

Alec Baldwin, an established actor well known for his roles in hit films from the ’80s and ’90s, such as “Beetlejuice” and “The Hunt for Red October,” is set to make his first appearance in a New Mexico courtroom. Baldwin finds himself staring down the barrel of felony involuntary manslaughter charges. If the jury unanimously agrees upon his guilt, Baldwin could be incarcerated for up to 18 months.

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The incident in question occurred during a rehearsal in a small church, an integral component of the movie set on Bonanza Creek Ranch. Baldwin, not only the film’s lead star but also its co-producer, held a revolver and pointed it at Hutchins when the gun discharged, causing fatal damage to Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. Baldwin has maintained that although he did pull back the hammer of the gun, he did not pull the trigger, making the unexpected discharge of the weapon all the more puzzling.

Throughout the trial, expect focus to heavily revolve around two elements. The first being the chaotic, arguably negligent atmosphere that permeated the movie set, and the second, the peculiarities of the classic Italian-made revolver Baldwin wielded on that fateful day.

The source of the live rounds, which ultimately ended Hutchins’ life, remain a mystery even now. However, allegations from prosecutors during the previous trial labeled “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed as the one to blame. Gutierrez-Reed, convicted of involuntary manslaughter, faces the same 18 month prison sentence looming over Baldwin.

For the prosecution, their task involves convincing the jury of Baldwin’s guilt through one of two possible standards. The first entails establishing negligence on Baldwin’s part in relation to handling the firearm. Alternatively, they must unequivocally demonstrate that Baldwin exhibited a flagrant disregard for the safety of others.

The scheduled duration of Baldwin’s trial is projected to span across nine days. To ensure a timely procession, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer vows to exercise prudence in keeping the lawyers in check and the proceedings on track. The jury selection begins on Tuesday, with opening statements expected the following day, Wednesday. Though a semblance of a timetable has been constructed, once the jury is handed the case, it is within their discretion to deliberate as long as necessary until a verdict—guilty or not guilty—is reached.

Baldwin, now 66, ascended to stardom during the late ’80s and early ’90s and has since managed to maintain his notoriety both on and off-screen. His remarkable career has seen him transitioned from leading roles to supporting roles, the most memorable of which was his portrayal of network executive Jack Donaghy on six seasons of “30 Rock,” earning him two Emmy awards. Baldwin also received an Emmy for his impressively accurate impersonation of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live.”

A noteworthy figure, Baldwin is renowned for his quick wit, liberal leanings, and occasionally, his uncontrollable anger. Despite its colorful and vibrant nature, his career has experienced a share of public embarrassments and minor legal issues, dwarfed in comparison to his current predicament.

The eldest amongst his five siblings, Baldwin hails from Massapequa, New York, and has spent the majority of his adult life in New York City. A father to an adult daughter, Ireland Baldwin, from his first marriage to Kim Basinger, and seven young children from his second marriage to Hilaria Baldwin, awaits what could potentially be his most devastating role: that of a defendant.

Baldwin’s defense team comprises mostly New York-based attorneys from the prestigious firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, the majority of whom are Harvard Law graduates. Spearheading the cross-examination of the state’s witnesses will be 41-year-old defense attorney Alex Spiro, who boasts an impressive client portfolio that includes Elon Musk and Megan Thee Stallion

The defense’s strategy hinges on making it clear that the responsibility of verifying whether the actor’s firearm contained real rounds did not rest on Baldwin. Baldwin has repeatedly insisted in interviews with ABC News and authorities that he did not pull the trigger of the revolver that caused Hutchins’s untimely death. They will further question the integrity of the firearm evidence and assert that the substantial damage inflicted on the revolver during FBI tests effectively destroyed valuable evidence.

While on the stand, Baldwin’s defense team has the discretion to challenge witnesses about whether Hutchins received timely and adequate medical assistance following the shooting and before her official declaration of death at a hospital

Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies appointed Kari Morrissey to assume the mantle as a special prosecutor on the case after a conflict of interest caused her forerunner to step down. Morrissey, an alumna of the University of New Mexico’s law school and an attorney based in Albuquerque for over two decades, rolled up her sleeves and got to work, studying the evidence meticulously. Confirming the dismissal of the indictment against Baldwin and later reinstating it in early 2023, Morrissey was joined by New Mexico criminal defense attorney Erlinda Johnson in April.

The defendants are not the only ones who find themselves in a heated court battle. Morrissey and Spiro have clashed head-on themselves, with Morrissey passionately exclaiming, “I’m not going to sit here and be called a liar!” during an especially heated confrontation at a hearing in May.

The crew members who bore witness to Hutchins’s death within the small church are among those called upon to testify during the trial. Several members include director Joel Souza, who was also wounded in the incident, and assistant director David Halls. Though initially suspected to have some responsibility for the shooting, Halls was absolved after he pleaded no contest to negligent handling of a firearm. Crew member, Zac Sneesby, holding a boom microphone during the rehearsal, will testify that he saw Baldwin pull the trigger, a statement that holds the potential to tilt the scales dramatically.

In the wake of all the media frenzy, amidst the piles of unused film canisters, the Hollywood glitz and glam of the courtroom, the one name will forever be at the center of it all: Halyna Hutchins. A cinematographer on the verge of reaching the zenith of her career and a young mother, Hutchins will forever be remembered as the innocent victim of a tragically preventable accident.