The trial of the armorer from the film “Rust” began Thursday with prosecutors alleging negligence in her handling of weapons on set, ultimately leading to the tragic on-set shooting by actor Alec Baldwin, which resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injury to director Joel Souza.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was the armorer on the Western movie “Rust,” stands accused of involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence relating to the fateful incident on October 21, 2021, at a movie ranch just outside Santa Fe. She has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges.

Separately, Baldwin, who was rehearsing with the firearm that discharged and caused the fatality and injury, is also contending with a charge of involuntary manslaughter, although his trial date remains pending.

The defense counters the allegations, declaring Gutierrez-Reed a victim of scapegoating. Defense attorney Jason Bowles highlighted the challenging circumstances under which his client had to work, including being tasked with dual roles on a tight schedule, and ignored requests for additional support by management.

In an emotional start to the trial, jurors were shown bodycam footage of the grisly aftermath of the shooting, where emergency responders attended to a grievously injured Hutchins. The urgency of the situation was palpable, with the arrival of a medevac helicopter and authorities striving to organize witnesses and secure the set.

The prosecution’s narrative points to Gutierrez-Reed’s alleged lapses, such as the introduction of prohibited live rounds onto the set, and her failure to adequately check the ammunition, which, they assert, led to a live round being loaded into the firearm that killed Hutchins.

The court saw the actual revolver handled by Baldwin during the incident, presented as evidence, as prosecutors aimed to emphasize the avoidable nature of the tragedy had proper safety protocols been observed.

By contrast, the defense portrayed a scenario of systemic failures, extending beyond the armorer’s purview, positing that the live rounds may have originated from an Albuquerque dummy round supplier who, according to them, was inadequately investigated.

Gutierrez-Reed, only 24 at the time of the incident and the stepdaughter of firearms expert Thell Reed, was portrayed as an inexperienced and convenient target for casting blame. The defense made a point of distancing her from the actual firing of the gun, instead shifting scrutiny towards Baldwin’s handling of the weapon in the moments leading up to the discharge.

The initial dismissal of charges against Baldwin due to potential weapon malfunction was mentioned, only to be re-addressed with a re-indictment after further analysis determined that the gun’s trigger must have been actuated to fire.

Defense further argued that Baldwin ignored safety advice and lacked proper training for the “cross-draw” he was performing when the gun went off.

Cross-examination by the defense sought to highlight potential mismanagement of the crime scene by the authorities, suggesting that this may have compromised the integrity of witness testimony.

The trial is expected to call upon over 40 potential witnesses and is scheduled through March 6. Baldwin, notably the film’s lead actor and co-producer, could choose to invoke his right against self-incrimination, given he does not appear on pretrial witness lists.

If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Gutierrez-Reed could face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. The evidence tampering charge is related to an alleged attempt to conceal narcotics post-incident, which her attorneys argue is an unfounded smear on her character.

Further adding to Gutierrez-Reed’s legal woes, she faces a separate charge for carrying a firearm into a Santa Fe bar, which her attorneys contend was leveraged against her for a coerced confession in the “Rust” case.

The role of Gutierrez-Reed on set was to manage the firearms and ammunition and provide training to the cast on proper handling. To distinguish dummy rounds from live ones, they typically feature a hole or a BB inside that rattles, indicating lack of explosive content.

Following a severe assessment by state workplace safety officials, Rust Movie Productions was fined $100,000 for substantial safety violations, failing to maintain standard industry protocols.

With the trial underway, all eyes are on the courtroom as the proceedings unfold, raising fundamental questions about on-set safety and responsibility in the film industry.

By IPL Agent

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