Rust armourer convicted for involuntary manslaughter in Baldwin shooting

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was found guilty in the fatal shooting by actor Alec Baldwin of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the former armorer at the movie Rust, listens to closing arguments in her trial at First District Court in Santa Fe
Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the former armourer for the movie Rust, listens to closing arguments in her trial at the First District Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico, US [Luis Sanchez Saturno/The New Mexican via Reuters]

A weapons supervisor on the set of Rust has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin from a gun she loaded during rehearsal for the Western movie.

The verdict on Wednesday against movie armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed assigned new blame in the October 2021 shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after an assistant director last year pleaded no contest to negligent handling of a firearm.

Gutierrez-Reed had also faced a second charge of tampering with evidence, stemming from accusations that she handed a small bag of possible narcotics to another crew member after the shooting to avoid detection. She was found not guilty on that count.

The jury spent almost three hours deliberating before reaching the verdict. According to local media, the 26-year-old, who chose not to testify in her defence during the trial in Santa Fe, in the US state of New Mexico, did not show any emotion as the verdict was read. She was then taken into custody.

Lead lawyer Jason Bowles said Gutierrez-Reed will appeal the conviction, which carries imprisonment for up to 18 months and a $5,000 fine. A sentencing date is yet to be set.

Gutierrez-Reed is the first person to face trial in a case that brought attention to safety standards within the movie industry.

A lawyer for Hutchins’s parents and sister issued a statement expressing their satisfaction with the verdict.

“Today was the first trial and conviction in the criminal justice process,” said the statement from Gloria Allred on behalf of parents Olga Solovey and Anatolli Androsovych and Hutchins’s sister, Svetlana Zemko.

“We look forward to the justice system continuing to make sure that everyone else who is responsible for Halyna’s death is required to face the legal consequences.”

Gun safety protocols

Baldwin, the lead actor and a co-producer on Rust, was indicted by a grand jury in January for involuntary manslaughter. He was pointing a gun at Hutchins on the set outside Santa Fe when it went off, killing the cinematographer and wounding director Joel Souza.

The trial was a preamble to Baldwin’s trial scheduled in July. He has pleaded not guilty.

There was no immediate comment from Baldwin’s spokesperson and lawyer.

Prosecutors said during the trial that Gutierrez-Reed unknowingly brought live ammunition onto the movie set, and it remained there for at least 12 days before the fatal shooting, giving her plenty of time to remove it.

In 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 jurors. Gutierrez-Reed “failed to maintain firearms safety, making a fatal accident willful and foreseeable”.

Prosecutors also contended that the armourer repeatedly skipped or skimped on standard gun safety protocols that might have detected the live rounds.

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

The defence and Gutierrez-Reed

Inside the courtroom on Wednesday, Gutierrez-Reed’s mother reacted with dismay at the conviction, bursting into tears and cursing the proceedings as her daughter was led away.

The defence lawyers told the jurors that the problems on the set extended far beyond Gutierrez-Reed’s control, including the mishandling of weapons by Baldwin, citing sanctions and findings by state workplace safety investigators.

The defence also cast doubt on accusations that Gutierrez-Reed brought live rounds to the set and said an Albuquerque-based ammunition supplier was never fully investigated.

Juror Alberto Sanchez said Gutierrez-Reed could have paused work on the set to address safety issues. The jurors concluded she brought live ammunition on set, whether she knew it or not, Sanchez said outside the court after the jurors were dismissed.

Bowles, the defence lawyer, had told jurors that no one in the cast and crew thought there were live rounds on set and Gutierrez-Reed could not have foreseen that Baldwin would “go off-script” when he pointed the revolver at Hutchins. Investigators found no video recordings of the shooting.

Dozens of witnesses had testified during the 10-day trial, from FBI experts in firearms and crime-scene forensics to a camera dolly operator who described the fatal gunshot and watching Hutchins go flush and lose feeling in her legs before death.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the former armorer at the movie Rust, listens to closing arguments in her trial at First District Court in Santa Fe
Stacy Reed, the mother of Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, reacts after hearing the guilty verdict during her daughter’s trial [Luis Sanchez Saturno/Reuters]
Source: News Agencies