"Rust" fatal shot

Trial starts: Baldwin faces 18 months in prison

09.07.2024 08:17

Almost three years after the death of a camerawoman in a shooting incident on the film set of the western "Rust", Hollywood star Alec Baldwin (66) is to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter. 

The jury is to be selected on Tuesday at the start of the headline-grabbing trial in Santa Fe in the US state of New Mexico. In the end, twelve jurors will have to reach a verdict. If found guilty, Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison.

Sharp ammunition on the set
The deadly drama at Bonanza Creek Ranch, a popular western filming location in New Mexico, had shaken up Hollywood. On October 21, 2021, lead actor Baldwin, dressed in western attire, pulled out a revolver during rehearsals. But instead of harmless bullets, live ammunition went off.

Alec Baldwin in court on Monday (Bild: APA/Luis Sánchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)
Alec Baldwin in court on Monday

The bullet pierced camerawoman Halyna Hutchins (42) and then hit director Joel Souza, who was standing behind her, in the shoulder. The mother of a then nine-year-old son died shortly afterwards, Souza escaped with minor injuries. It is unclear how the live ammunition got onto the set.

Baldwin in court
Baldwin had already appeared in court on Monday for a hearing with his lawyers - wearing a dark suit and tie. At the hearing, the defense and the prosecution exchanged blows in front of the judge until the very end over motions regarding which evidence and witnesses should be admitted at the trial.

The defense scored points with their demand that only Baldwin's role as an actor is relevant in the proceedings. The prosecution, on the other hand, wanted to bring up Baldwin's other role as co-producer of the western, arguing that he had disregarded safety regulations in this role, exerted pressure on film-makers on set and thus put them in danger.

Did Baldwin act recklessly?
The hearing also dealt with the question of whether the jury would be able to see videos of Baldwin handling weapons on set. Among other things, the prosecution wants to show that the actor acted recklessly. The judge ruled in favor of the prosecution on this point.

Baldwin always maintained that he did not pull the trigger of the gun. (Bild: APA/Luis Sánchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)
Baldwin always maintained that he did not pull the trigger of the gun.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer has set just under two weeks for the trial. Cameras are permitted in the courtroom - the proceedings will be broadcast around the world via livestream. Among others, filmmakers, investigators and weapons experts are expected to take the witness stand.

Baldwin has claimed in interviews that he did not pull the trigger of the gun. The actor and producer pleaded not guilty to the charge in January. However, according to a report by firearms experts, the trigger must have been pulled.

Arms master convicted
In a separate trial, the gun master Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for gun safety on the set of "Rust", was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. She had loaded the gun, which contained live ammunition. In April, she was sentenced to the maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

Baldwin's name was constantly mentioned in the first criminal trial - as the lead actor and producer of the low-budget western, the prosecution held him and other participants responsible for a lack of safety on set. The producers had ignored precautionary measures in order to make a quick buck, it was claimed.

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