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News / Nation & World

Jury hears closing arguments in trial of armorer over fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press
Published: March 6, 2024, 12:36pm
2 Photos
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, center, prosecutor Kari Morrissey, left, and defense attorney Jason Bowles discuss testimony by firearms expert for the defense Frank Koucky III, after an objection by the prosecution, during the involuntary manslaughter trial for &quot;Rust&quot; movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, Tuesday, March 5, 2024, at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, N.M.
Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, center, prosecutor Kari Morrissey, left, and defense attorney Jason Bowles discuss testimony by firearms expert for the defense Frank Koucky III, after an objection by the prosecution, during the involuntary manslaughter trial for "Rust" movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, Tuesday, March 5, 2024, at the First Judicial District Courthouse in Santa Fe, N.M. (Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP, Pool) Photo Gallery

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A jury would soon weigh whether a movie weapons supervisor should be held to blame in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin during rehearsal on the set of a Western movie, as attorneys Wednesday delivered closing arguments in the trial of Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.

Gutierrez-Reed, a 24-year-old on her second feature film at the time of the 2021 shooting, has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering at a trial in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The proceedings are a preamble to a likely trial against Baldwin scheduled for July on a single charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Baldwin, who has pleaded not guilty, was pointing a revolver at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Prosecutors say Gutierrez-Reed unknowingly brought live ammunition onto the set of “Rust” at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe, where the rounds lingered for at least 12 days until the fatal shooting.

Delivering her 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,” Morrissey told the jury. “Hannah Gutierrez failed to maintain firearms safety, making a fatal accident willful and foreseeable.”

Prosecutors contend the armorer repeatedly skipped or skimped on standard gun-safety protocols that might have detected live rounds on set.

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

Defense attorneys contend problems on the movie set extended far beyond Gutierrez-Reed’s control, including the mishandling of weapons by Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer who crew members were loath to confront.

They say prosecutors have not come close to proving where live ammunition originated, failing to fully investigate an Albuquerque-based ammunition supplier.

Dozens of witnesses testified over the course of 10 days at trial, running the gamut from FBI experts in firearms and crime-scene forensics to a camera dolly operator who described the fatal gunshot and watched Hutchins go flush and lose feelings in her legs before death.

The prosecution has painstakingly assembled photographic evidence they say traces the arrival and spread of live rounds on set, using testimony from eyewitnesses to the shooting including Souza to reconstruct the day it happened on Oct. 21, 2021.

Prosecutors say six live rounds found on the “Rust” set bear mostly identical characteristics — and don’t match live rounds seized from the movie’s supplier in Albuquerque. Defense attorneys say the cluttered supply office was not searched until a month after the fatal shooting, undermining the significance of physical evidence there.

A second charge against Gutierrez-Reed of evidence tampering stems from accusations that she handed a small bag of possible narcotics to another crew member after the shooting to avoid detection.

The felony charges against Gutierrez-Reed carry a possible sentence of up to thee years in prison.

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