Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ trial: Defense argues gun safety rules don’t apply to an actor playing a movie role

Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ trial: Defense argues gun safety rules don’t apply to an actor playing a movie role

SANTA FE, N.M. – Actor Alec Baldwin was not at fault for fatally shooting a staffer on a New Mexico movie set, his attorney argued in opening statements Wednesday.

Lawyer Alex Spiro told jurors that his client had no idea a live bullet had been inexplicably placed in the firearm — and blamed the film’s armorer for the accidental slaying.

“This was an unspeakable tragedy, but Alec Baldwin committed no crime,” Spiro said. “He was an actor acting, playing the role of Harlan Rust. An actor playing a character.”

The veteran thespian, who is facing an involuntary manslaughter charge, was holding the gun that went off, shooting and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza on the set of “Rust” while filming in Santa Fe in 2021.

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Prosecutors assert that Baldwin’s cavalier flouting of basic gun safety practices resulted in Hutchins’ death.

But Spiro said that a different set of rules apply to film sets, where individual roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated.

The attorney said armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed was in charge of gun safety at the time, and that Baldwin had no reason to expect that his gun was loaded.

“No one fathomed, imagined, foresaw any possible danger,” he said, insisting that Baldwin was told the gun was safe and that, on a move set, those checks are carried out before the weapon reaches an actor’s hands.

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Gutierrez Reed was convicted of the same charge Baldwin is facing and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

“He was just acting as he has done for generations, and it was the safety apparatus that failed them all,” Spiro said, stressing that union rules don’t oblige actors to check guns before use.

“The evidence will show that guns are in movies because movies are about people’s lives and guns are in people’s lives,” Spiro said.

Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria, and brother, Stephen, watched the openings intently from the front row of the Santa Fe courtroom.

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“You’re going to hear a man in shocking grief, a father and artist worried about his family,” Spiro said of his client’s reaction to the incident.

The lawyer said investigators wrongfully focused on Baldwin’s legal exposure instead of trying to pinpoint how the bullet ended up in the firearm.

But prosecutor Erlinda Johnson depicted Baldwin’s use of the gun as egregious. 

“This defendant mishandled this gun,” she said. “You will see him using this gun as a pointer to point at people to point at things. You will see him cock the hammer when he’s not supposed to cock the hammer. He cocks the hammer and points it straight at Ms. Hutchins.”

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Johnson asserted that Baldwin, like any other person, had an obligation to ensure that the gun he was handling was safe. 

The actor has repeatedly stated that he cocked the firearm back but didn’t pull the trigger, and that it went off spontaneously.

Spiro said even if he did pull the trigger, he still wasn’t culpable.

Prosecutors have insisted that the gun couldn’t have fired if Baldwin didn’t squeeze the trigger.

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Testing Baldwin’s claims, FBI investigators found that the gun didn’t fire after they hit it with a mallet from various angles.

“The evidence will show, ladies and gentlemen, that’s not possible,” Johnson reiterated Wednesday, arguing that Baldwin displayed a “reckless disregard” for Hutchins’ safety.

Spiro said that the FBI’s forensic testing destroyed the firearm, preventing Baldwin’s defense from vetting it for any modifications or malfunctions that could help his defense.

Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

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