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Trial to start for Rust armourer over on-set shooting

The woman responsible for the guns on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie Rust, where a cinematographer was shot dead during filming in 2021, will go on trial in the western United States on Wednesday.

Hannah Gutierrez has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins, who died from her injuries after being hit by a live round fired from a gun Baldwin was holding.

The director of the period Western, Joel Souza, was wounded in the incident.

A trial in New Mexico is expected to hear how, as the film’s armourer, the 26-year-old Gutierrez was tasked with supplying firearms and ensuring their safe use on set.

Prosecutors are expected to argue she was lackadaisical in her approach, allowing live rounds – which should never even have been on set – to be mixed in with blank ammunition.

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died after being shot on the set of Rust

Gutierrez also faces one charge of tampering with evidence, which relates to her alleged disposal of cocaine after her initial questioning by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s officers.

The trial, which begins with jury selection on Wednesday, is expected to last around two weeks.

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Gutierrez could face a prison sentence of up to 18 months.

Her lawyers are expected to argue that Hutchins’ death was the result of a series of errors brought about by intense pressure to finish the film on time and under budget.

The trial of the armourer, who is also known as Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is the latest attempt to hold someone accountable for an on-set tragedy that sent shockwaves through Hollywood and led to calls for a tightening of the rules around the use of firearms in movies.

Dave Halls, the film’s safety coordinator and assistant director who handed Baldwin the loaded gun, earlier agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to six months’ probation.

But criminal charges against Baldwin have encountered a number of setbacks.

Actor Alec Baldwin has repeatedly denied responsibility for the fatal shooting

Initial manslaughter charges were dropped in April last year, due to what prosecutors called “new facts” that demanded “further investigation and forensic analysis”.

That led to the empanelling of a grand jury, which late last year handed down a new indictment.

The 65-year-old actor in January pleaded not-guilty to those involuntary manslaughter charges.

Baldwin has repeatedly denied responsibility for the incident, insisting he did not pull the trigger, and saying that as an actor, he should have been able to rely on the professionals around him to ensure that props were safe.

No date has yet been set for his trial, which could stretch into next year.

Filming of Rust was halted by the tragedy but resumed last year.

The cinematographer’s widower, Matthew Hutchins, who has already settled a wrongful death suit with Rust producers, served as an executive producer on the project.

Director Souza also returned, saying at the time that completing the movie would be “bittersweet” but that the cast and crew “are committed to completing what Halyna and I started”.

Baldwin remains free on bail.

Source: AFP

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