06 March 2024

Jury convicts movie armourer of involuntary manslaughter over Baldwin shooting

06 March 2024

A jury has convicted a movie weapons supervisor of involuntary manslaughter over the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal on the set of the western movie Rust.

The verdict against movie armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed assigns new blame for the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021 after an assistant director last year pleaded no contest to negligent handling of a firearm.

Baldwin, the lead actor and a co-producer on Rust, was indicted by a grand jury in January on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. He was pointing a gun at Hutchins on a movie set outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.

Prosecutors at a two-week trial alleged Gutierrez-Reed unwittingly brought live ammunition on to the set of Rust while flouting basic industry gun safety guidelines.

The involuntary manslaughter charge against Gutierrez-Reed carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a 5,000 dollar (£3,900) fine.

She was ordered immediately after the verdict to be taken into custody by deputies after the verdict was read in the court.

Gutierrez-Reed, a 24-year-old on her second feature film as armourer at the time of the 2021 shooting, had pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering at the trial held in central Santa Fe.

The proceedings are a preamble to a scheduled trial of Baldwin in July on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. The actor has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Gutierrez-Reed unknowingly brought live ammunition on to the set of Rust at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe, arguing that rounds lingered for at least 12 days until the shooting.

In closing arguments, prosecutor Kari Morrissey described “constant, never-ending safety failures” on the set of Rust and Gutierrez-Reed’s “astonishing lack of diligence” with gun safety.

“We end exactly where we began — in the pursuit of justice for Halyna Hutchins,” Ms Morrissey told the jury. “Hannah Gutierrez failed to maintain firearms safety, making a fatal accident wilful and foreseeable.”

Prosecutors contended the armourer repeatedly skipped or skimped on standard gun safety protocols that might have detected the live rounds.

“This was a game of Russian roulette every time an actor had a gun with dummies,” Ms Morrissey said.

Defence lawyers said problems on the set extended far beyond Gutierrez-Reed’s control, including the mishandling of weapons by Baldwin. At trial they cited sanctions and findings by state workplace safety investigators.

Prosecutors did not come close to proving where the live rounds originated and failed to fully investigate an Albuquerque-based ammunition supplier, the defence said at trial.

Lead lawyer Jason Bowles told jurors that no one in the cast and crew thought there were live rounds on set and Gutierrez-Reed could not have foreseen that Baldwin would “go off-script” when he pointed the revolver at Hutchins. Investigators found no video recordings of the shooting.

“It was not in the script for Mr Baldwin to point the weapon,” Mr Bowles said. “She didn’t know that Mr Baldwin was going to do what he did.”

To drive the point home, he played a video outtake in which Baldwin fired a revolver loaded with blanks — including a shot after a director calls “cut”.

On the day of the shooting, Mr Bowles said, Gutierrez-Reed alone was segregated in a police car away from others, becoming a convenient scapegoat.

“You had a production company on a shoestring budget, an A-list actor that was really running the show,” Mr Bowles said. “At the end, they had somebody they could all blame.”

The prosecution painstakingly assembled photographic evidence it said traced the arrival and spread of live rounds on set, and argued that Gutierrez-Reed repeatedly missed opportunities to ensure safety and treated basic gun protocols as optional.

The defence had cast doubt on the relevance of photographs of ammunition, noting FBI evidence that live rounds cannot be fully distinguished from dummy ones on sight.

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