Alec Baldwin’s trial for involuntary manslaughter begins jury selection

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Jury selection begins today, Tuesday July 9, for Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial for the death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Baldwin was the star and producer of the low budget indie that was filming in New Mexico in October 2021, when he was handed a prop gun and told it was “cold,” meaning it had no ammo (even blanks). But then in rehearsals the gun fired. Hutchins died from the shooting, while director Joel Souza survived his injuries. Baldwin and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, were both charged with involuntary manslaughter in January 2023, Baldwin’s charges were later dropped, and then he was indicted again at the beginning of this year. Gutierrez-Reed was recently found guilty and given the maximum possible sentence of 18 months in prison. And now Baldwin is that much closer to his own day in court:

Jury selection begins today: Nearly three years after the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico film set of “Rust,” actor Alec Baldwin is set to stand trial. Baldwin is charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in the deadly incident that also injured the film’s director, Joel Souza. Jury selection for Baldwin’s criminal trial begins Tuesday. It’s unclear if the actor will take the stand to testify.

Trigger vs misfire: Baldwin has maintained in multiple interviews that he did not pull the trigger and that the gun misfired a bullet. Baldwin told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he was taking direction from Hutchins and pulled the hammer back as far as he could without cocking it. But in 2022, results from FBI testing of the .45-caliber Colt prop revolver stated that the gun would not have gone off without the trigger having been pulled. Just last month, Baldwin’s attorneys asked the judge to throw out the case, saying the firearm was badly damaged during forensic testing at the FBI lab, but the motion was denied. Baldwin was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter and a firearm enhancement charge. But the firearm enhancement charge was eventually dropped. It reduced his potential prison sentence by five years.

Will Gutierrez-Reed testify? At the time of Baldwin’s initial charges, the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for overseeing the weapons on set, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. She was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in April and is currently serving an 18-month jail sentence. Gutierrez-Reed was called upon to testify in Baldwin’s upcoming trial but she asserted her Fifth Amendment right not to answer any questions pertaining to Baldwin during her pretrial interview in May. It is unclear if she will testify if called to the stand.

The assistant director is expected to testify: Meanwhile, Dave Halls, the assistant director on set who pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation, is expected to take the stand. In interviews, Baldwin maintained that Halls declared the gun “cold,” meaning it had no live ammunition before it was handed to Baldwin.

Prosecutors say Baldwin’s story has changed: But the prosecutors accused Baldwin of offering contradictory versions of events to law enforcement and in the media about whether he pulled the trigger and whether he was taking direction from Hutchins. “In sum, every time Mr. Baldwin spoke, a different version of events emerged from his mouth,” said a court filing this spring from the special prosecutors.

[From NBC News]

For what it’s worth, I’ve looked back through our own coverage, as well as source material since the accident happened on October 21, 2021, and what I found was Baldwin consistently maintaining that he did not pull the trigger. It was outlets reporting on the incident in the immediate aftermath that used broad language like “Baldwin fired a gun.” Of course, there may be statements the prosecutors are privy to that I am not, where Baldwin does in fact contradict himself.

With regards to his culpability, that’s complicated by the fact that Baldwin wasn’t just the star, but also a producer. If he were just there as an actor, it’d be much clearer to determine not guilty: it was the armorer’s job to supervise the safe and proper use of all prop weapons on set, and an actor has a reasonable expectation that the crew is telling him the truth when they say he’s handling an unloaded gun. But as a producer, the prosecution can argue that the buck stops with Baldwin for hiring a competent armorer. The thing is, there are many different levels of producers on a film. I don’t know how this forming-as-we-speak jury will view Baldwin’s role and responsibility. I will say that it sure doesn’t seem like the perfect time to launch a personal reality show. Or who knows, maybe it is. ¿quién sabe?

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39 Responses to “Alec Baldwin’s trial for involuntary manslaughter begins jury selection”

  1. Smegmoria says:

    I think the judge just decided that his role as producer will not factor into the trial.

    • Joan Smith says:

      His role as producer would come up in a civil trial. Depending on the extent of his involvement in the production, he may be found civilly liable.

    • Kirsten says:

      This is correct — his role as a producer cannot be taken into account at the trial.

  2. Bumblebee says:

    This won’t be a jury full of Hollywood people, so will the argument that the actor isn’t responsible for gun safety work? Because in the real world, as soon as you pick up a gun, you are responsible for what happens next. Everyone else has involved has been held accountable. The shooter should be too.

    • Allison says:

      He can’t go to jail! He’s got 14 kids to feed!!

    • Steph says:

      In a real world setting, he was at work handling a piece of equipment. Everyone is taught safety when using dangerous machinery but not everyone is taught maintenance. So if he did everything he was supposed to do but didn’t know that maintenance made an error, is he responsible?
      I’m trying to think of an example. The only thing I can come up with is: a pilot did safety checks before takeoff. They still rely on a different crew’s info about the physical health of a plane. If a wheel falls off during takeoff causing a crash, is the pilot responsible?

      • Rnot says:

        There’s a whole legal/moral buck stoppage aspect when you’re the one signing the paychecks, because you’re the one who controls the conditions of the workplace. If the armorer that he hired is unqualified, then it’s his fault as well as hers. An 18 month matching sentence would be fitting and just.

    • sevenblue says:

      The jury isn’t gonna just decide according to their beliefs. I read before that there are written safety measures that every actor/actress has to follow. According to them, it isn’t actor’s responsibility to check these things. He was handed the gun by another personnel who checked it for safety. If he followed the process as it is written, I don’t see why the jury would find him guilty as the actor and on which grounds.

    • Lulu says:

      Dave Hall wasn’t held accountable; he was given a plea deal. He handed Balwin the gun.

    • Megan says:

      @Bumblebee If that were true a lot more cops would be in jail.

  3. Steph says:

    I need to Google what a weapons enhancement charge is and how it pertains to Baldwin. I’ve been conflicted about this since it happened. There are enough things to complain about Alec about but I don’t think he’s a murderer. I guess the outcome I want is whatever the Hutchins and Souza families want.

    • Maureen says:

      He’s not a murderer and he’s not being tried for murder. He’s being tried for involuntary manslaughter, which is negligence causing the death of another. The facts are that he pointed a gun in Hutchins direction and it went off, killing her. It’s not disputed. It’s against protocol as you are not to point a gun at anyone on a movie set. He was careless in his own way, which contributed to her death and the injury of another. He is being properly tried.

  4. Lady Digby says:

    I am a brit who has never handled a gun or bullets in my life so please forgive the naivety of this question: if Alec had checked the gun himself would it have been OBVIOUS that it was a live bullet rather than dummy charge?

    • Steph says:

      American who knows nothing about handling guns either: @Kismet said that “cold” meant there should have been nothing in the gun. Not live. Not dummy. It clearly wasn’t checked bc there was something in there. I don’t know if it would have been obvious between a live round and a blank but I think they are meant to look at a glance.

      • windyriver says:

        From statements I read at the time by professional armorers, on a set it’s the armorer’s job to oversee the safety of the equipment. The actor is specifically NOT supposed to do anything to check the gun, because it compromises the chain of safety, which must be started over if that occurs.

        I don’t remember all the details, but it sounds like Ms. Hutchins was killed by a live bullet? I don’t know anything about blanks, whether firing a blank could have caused her death. And believe I read somewhere the gun was some kind of borrowed vintage item – which other people on set had already been firing, using actual live rounds. Possibly Baldwin is telling the truth, he didn’t pull the trigger, it’s an old gun (improperly set up?) and it misfired. But as I recall, the fact that live ammunition was even on the set was one of the many serious problems with safety, for which he as producer bears some responsibility .

      • Lauren says:

        @ windyriver

        “ set it’s the armorer’s job to oversee the safety of the equipment. The actor is specifically NOT supposed to do anything to check the gun, ”

        I’m not sure how true that is. George Clooney and a long list of other actors came out after it happened and they all said they always check themselves and that this has been a standard procedure in Hollywood since Brandon Lee died in 1994.

        Also how would it compromises the chain of safety when the armorers is the only other person touching the gun and they had it to the actors/actresses.

      • windyriver says:

        @Lauren, would have to go back and find the articles, but remember what I said above very distinctly, and it made sense to me. There are supposed to be distinct safety protocols with weapons on set, and having an (inexperienced) actor opening a gun at the end wasn’t part of it.

        Also, from what I recall, the armorer prepares the weapon, but isn’t necessarily the only other one who touches it or who finally hands it to the actor. Believe it could possibly sometimes be handed off to the prop master (?); in this case, it was the assistant director. Again, there is supposed to be a specific protocol about how this goes.

        Can’t speak for what Clooney or other actors might have said about what they do. If it were me, I’d ask for the weapon to be opened by the person responsible for it according to the protocol at the point it was to be handed to me, and have that person demonstrate to me that it was in fact, ‘cold’.

      • Sid says:

        Lauren I read something similar to you. The actor is also involved in the checking process, as the final person in the chain. Basically as I read it, before the scene is rehearsed or filmed, the armorer is supposed to walk the gun over to the prop master, open it and show the director that the gun is unloaded. Then the prop master takes the gun, shows the director it is unloaded, then hands it over. Lastly the director shows the actor the gun is unloaded, then hands it over. The basic idea is that everyone who takes the gun along the chain knows for sure there are no real bullets in it, including the actor.

    • sevenblue says:

      From what I remember of the case, he didn’t check the gun for safety as it isn’t his responsibility. He was handed the gun by someone who checked it and said it was cold. Some actors said they always check themselves too, but you can’t expect every actor to know these things, that is why there are safety procedures on sets, although it seems like most of the rules were not followed by the armorer herself.

      • Lulu says:

        I believe that was Dave Hall who yelled ‘cold gun’ and handed it to Balwin. Yet Hall got a plea deal. That never made sense to me.

      • sevenblue says:

        @Lulu, I think, they want him to testify against Alec, he is the bigger fish.

      • Ameerah M says:

        @sevenblue – it was not his job to check the gun but actors are instructed NOT to aim or point the gun until filming – and they do not use the real gun during rehearsals. They were in rehearsals when the shooting happened. He actually should never have had the gun in the first place. Which is what the armorer and other witnesses talked about. The gun should not have been on set WITHOUT the armorer present. And the director would not allow her on set that day

      • sevenblue says:

        @Ameerah M, interesting, I didn’t read the director not allowing armorer on set part before. Still, I don’t see Alec’s liability there as an actor. We could say he had more responsibility since he was the producer, but he wasn’t the only producer there. Someone gave him the gun during rehearsals to use. If the gun shouldn’t have been there in the first place, then multiple people should be in front of the jury, not just him, in my opinion.

      • Ameerah M says:

        @sevenblue – it’s in the original statements given to police right after the shooting and in the public legal documents that were filed for the armorer’s trial. There was a LOT going on between the armorer and the director. They were essentially feuding and he was attempting to get her fired. He barred her from the set – and stated he didn’t need her because they were just rehearsing. There had been multiple issues with improper handling of the guns on set and it’s one of the reasons why the crew quit in protest a week (may have only just been a few days, I can’t remember) before the incident. Also there was huge beef between Baldwin and the victim. They had been in multiple arguments and multiple witnesses talked about them arguing constantly. And that is in the public record. The director always took Alec’s side of course because he was the star and the producer. That entire set was toxic, unsafe, and unprofessional and it was only a matter of time before something like what happened, happened.

        And yes- MULTIPLE people are culpable for what happened. Including the director. But Alec is the one who literally AIMED the weapon at her – which is a gigantic NO NO when working with guns on a set.

  5. Barett says:

    I feel as producer he should have some culpability. My readings have shown that set to be a safety mess for budget reasons. Even if it’s 6 months or more probation at home . No I don’t think he did it on purpose but I do think he and others managed processes poorly bc they were cheap. I read in times experts on case said it was impossible not to have pulled trigger. I’m following this case, new evidence… NYT had a good piece on it.

    • Lulu says:

      I tend to agree but the judge said yesterday they cannot talk about him as a producer only as an actor. I believe the armorer is usually a union job and this movie hired an inexperienced, nonunion, person obviously for budget reasons. I have read that Balwin wasn’t the only producer, so I don’t know that he was involved in that decision.

    • Kirsten says:

      There are differences between an executive producer and a producer. There are often multiple producers on a film and (if they have any control at all) they oversee different aspects of production. According to Baldwin’s team he had creative oversight but not administrative (no budget, scheduling, etc.).

  6. Flamingo says:

    The most he can get is what Hannah got which was 18 months in prison. Which she basically brought on herself. With her callousness on jail calls about the situation. The Judge was not happy with her.

    The youtube lawyers thinks Hannah will testify. Since she wants out of prison bad. And thinks it will help with parole if she helps convict Alec.

    I really hope he takes the stand. I 100% thinks he will, since he thinks he can talk/act himself out of anything.

  7. manda says:

    I think the elements of involuntary manslaughter are an unlawful killing caused by negligence or recklessness. So, was he negligent in not checking the gun, or negligent in pulling the trigger? I think he’s permitted to rely on the professional telling him it was a cold gun, so is a person negligent for pulling a trigger on a cold gun, or negligent for relying on being told that by the professional? I assume that is what it will come down to. I can’t imagine being responsible for hiring the professional would amount to criminal negligence unless he had reason to know she wasn’t very good at her job when he hired her. I am not an expert but I don’t really see how he is criminally liable here, and it seems like if the charges were dropped and then recharged, this is more of a case of the prosecutor wanting to get a famous person than wanting to get justice

    • Flamingo says:

      Regardless of what he was told. Protocol in general is never point a gun at a person. He pointed it directly at Halayna and the director behind her. Killing her and wounding him.

      • manda says:

        what if the injury had occurred while acting out the scene? In movies do people “never” point guns at people? I think they do, after being told that it is safe to do so. I think this is a question that will come down to the jury. I personally think this was just a terrible accident but I don’t see how the facts of this case amount to criminal negligence

      • Lauren says:

        @ manda

        They don’t point the gun at people . When two characters are in a gun fight to film each one separately and directly into the camera for close ups. The gun is never positioned at the person but the direction of the camera . It’s all an illusion to make it look like they’re pointing it at the person.

    • Aerie says:

      Baldwin’s defense is that he never pulled the trigger, which could result in a guilty verdict of recklessness. IMO it would make more sense to argue that it was not his responsibility to check the gun, thereby ruling out guilt by negligence.

      • manda says:

        Oh yeah, it for sure does not seem plausible that he didn’t pull the trigger!

      • Flamingo says:

        The FBI tested the gun until it broke that it couldn’t have gone off without pulling the trigger. I believed the last FBI agent at Hannah’s trial.

        And there were bts video taken of Alec acting reckless on set with that gun. Taking another shot when the director called ‘cut’. And how he was basically bullying/directing people on set.

        I think his behavior was outrageous acting like the big gorilla on the set. On top of the fact he blew off safety trainings to go talk to his pepino.

      • Aerie says:

        It’s a stretch to ask anyone to believe that a gun just fired a round by itself while being held in someone’s hand. None of the footage of Baldwin’s behavior on set will be shown to jurors. I agree with the charge of involuntary manslaughter but I seriously doubt he’ll be convicted.

  8. Amy T says:

    I sat on by a jury for a gun case a year ago, and it was an eye-opening experience. Once selected and seated, you just listen to the evidence as it’s presented, can take notes but must leave them behind when you go home for the day, are not allowed to talk to anyone else about the case – including fellow jurors, or consume any news or other outside information about the trial. It’s only when everything is done and you and any notes you took are sent off to deliberate that you have a clue as to what anyone else thought.
    It will be very interesting to see how the case is presented.

  9. ElleE says:

    I love seeing that unqualified armorer in handcufffs.
    She literally had one job and two people were shot.

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