Alec Baldwin Rust Shooting Trial: Everything To Know About Legal Case So Far

Alec Baldwin is about to enter a New Mexico courtroom for the first time since the October 21, 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust.

Published on Jul 08, 2024  |  02:47 PM IST |  24K
Alec Baldwin Rust Shooting Trial: Latest On The Legal Case So Far
Alec Baldwin (PC: Instagram/alecbaldwininsta)

Alec Baldwin, the actor, faces felony involuntary manslaughter charges after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the set of the movie Rust in October 2021. If convicted by a unanimous jury, he could face up to 18 months in prison.

The incident occurred during a rehearsal at Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico, where Baldwin, also the movie’s director and producer, pointed a revolver at Hutchins and discharged it, resulting in her death and injuring director Joel Souza. Baldwin's defense asserts he did not intentionally fire the gun; instead, he pulled back the hammer.

The trial's key points will focus on the confusion at the movie set and the detailed aspects of the Italian-made revolver used by Alec Baldwin. The investigation into the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust has not definitively determined how live rounds ended up in the prop gun that discharged the fatal bullets.

Previously, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer on set, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting, potentially facing an 18-month prison sentence—the same outcome Alec Baldwin could face if convicted.

Jurors to decide Alec Baldwin's fate

In Alec Baldwin's case, jurors will decide on a single charge: felony manslaughter by negligence. Prosecutors will present two standards to prove this charge—one alleging Baldwin fired the firearm negligently and another requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted recklessly knowing the potential consequences, endangering others' lives. 

Despite the complexities of the case, the jury, composed of 12 citizens from Santa Fe County, will ultimately render a single verdict: guilty or not guilty.

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Details and timeline of the proceedings in New Mexico Court

The court case regarding the shooting incident involving Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin is being heard at the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico, located approximately 20 miles northeast of the shooting scene. The trial is expected to span nine days.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer has emphasized maintaining decorum and punctuality among the lawyers. Jury selection will commence on a Tuesday, followed by witness testimonies starting on Wednesday, with the trial expected to conclude the following Friday.

Once the case is handed over to the jury, they will deliberate for as long as needed to reach a verdict.

Who is Alec Baldwin?

Alec Baldwin, a prominent figure known for his participation in many talk shows, is considered to have a liberal personality in society. He has has faced controversies stemming from anger management issues, although previous legal troubles were less severe compared to the current ones.

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Born and raised in Massapequa, New York, Baldwin grew up with five brothers and a sister, five of whom are also involved in acting. As an adult, he has mostly resided in New York City. Baldwin has a grown-up daughter, Ireland Baldwin, from his first wife, Kim Basinger, and seven young children with his current wife, Hilaria Baldwin.

Alec Baldwin is relying on robust legal representation from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, whose lawyers, especially those specializing in New York law, boast prestigious educations from Harvard Law School. Leading the defense team is Alex Spiro, a prominent 41-year-old American attorney known for advising figures like Elon Musk and Megan Thee Stallion.

The defense strategy aims to challenge the assertion that Baldwin failed to ensure no live ammunition was present on the film set. This position is supported by Baldwin's union, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).

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Criticism has been directed at Baldwin for asserting in an interview with ABC News and in interactions with officials that he did not pull the trigger of that revolver. This aspect of the defense will likely be a focal point to counter allegations of intentional wrongdoing.

Additionally, Baldwin's defense is expected to dispute firearm-related evidence, particularly regarding concerns over the handling of the revolver during an FBI test, arguing it could be construed as evidence tampering rather than allowing Baldwin a proper examination.

Witnesses from the prosecution who testified in Hannah Gutierrez-Reed's trial regarding Baldwin's handling of the revolver and its functionality may return, despite concerns raised by Baldwin's legal team.

Furthermore, the defense might focus on the timeline of medical attention Halyna Hutchins received between the shooting and her subsequent death declaration at a hospital, potentially arguing she did not receive immediate or adequate treatment. These strategies outline an anti-Heywood defense strategy aimed at disputing key aspects of Alec Baldwin's involuntary manslaughter prosecution. 

Prosecutor Morrissey faces off against Baldwin's defense in high-stakes trial

After her predecessor resigned due to conflicts of interest, Kari Morrissey was appointed as special prosecutor for Alec Baldwin's case by Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies in early 2023. Morrissey initially dropped the indictment against Baldwin, but it was reinstated by a grand jury in January of this year following a thorough review of the evidence.

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Morrissey, who earned her law degree from the University of New Mexico, has over 20 years of legal experience in Albuquerque. In April, she was joined by Erlinda Johnson, a criminal defense lawyer from New Mexico, on her team.

The upcoming trial, marked by colorful hearings and voluminous filings, is poised to highlight a clash of legal strategies. Morrissey and Baldwin's defense lead, Alex Spiro, have notably clashed during pre-trial proceedings, with Morrissey once asserting, 'I'm not going to sit here and be called a liar,' during a heated May hearing.

The prosecution aims to convince the jury that Baldwin mishandled the firearm while acting on set, arguing that his actions contributed to the production's irresponsibility, given his pivotal role.

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Alec Baldwin's defence strategy focuses on gun protocol

The most crucial testimony in the trial will come from the crew members inside the tiny church structure who turned become eyewitnesses to Hutchins' murder. These include David Halls, the film's assistant director, who admitted to being irresponsible with a handgun but denied any involvement in the shooting, and Joel Souza, the director, who was shot and injured by a bullet from Baldwin's rifle.

Prosecutors stated in court documents that Zac Sneesby, a crew member who held a boom microphone throughout the practice, will testify that he witnessed Baldwin pull the trigger of the pistol, making him maybe the most significant witness of all.

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Additionally, the prosecution might bring Gutierrez-Reed to the stand, but Marlowe Sommer turned down their offer of immunity.

Gun experts will testify before the jury, claiming that even if the revolver was functioning correctly, it could not have been shot without the trigger being pulled.

Baldwin himself has the option, but is not required to, to defend himself. His lawyers are unsure of what he will do.

The unfortunate shooting incident during the shooting of the movie Rust was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is not only the largest city, but also the capital of the state, and home to around 89,000 people. Rich in culture, history and natural beauty of the Southwestern territory, the modern legal building sits firmly in the middle of downtown Santa Fe, almost leaving aside the cosmopolitan concrete jungle environments of coastal California and New York, where some of the highest profile actors, actresses, television and movie producers and politicians such as Bill Cosby, O J Simpson, Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump have faced trials.

The trial that is currently underway in Santa Fe is expected to attract a lot of attention because many members of the national media want to cover it for their television stations or stations they work for; many media companies are eager to secure seats inside the courtroom and also to get good shooting locations around the courthouse to capture arrivals and departures of those involved in the trial. The proceedings will also be made available for live-streaming and broadcast of the trial on Court TV and other platforms.

Halyna Hutchins, a promising professional who was only 42 when she died, was an acclaimed young cinematographer and a loving mother of a small child.

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