Alec Baldwin’s manslaughter trial begins in New Mexico

Nearly three years after the fatal shooting of camerawoman Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” in New Mexico, actor Alec Baldwin is to stand trial.

Baldwin is charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in the fatal incident that also left the film’s director, Joel Souza, injured.

Jury selection for Baldwin’s criminal trial begins Tuesday. It is unclear whether the actor will testify.

Actor Alec Baldwin is being investigated after the shooting death of cameraman Halyna Hutchins at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, NM, on October 21, 2022.Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office via AFP – Getty Images file

How did we get here?

Baldwin rehearsed with a prop gun for a scene on October 21, 2021 at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, when the gunshot went off, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has maintained in multiple interviews that he did not pull the trigger and that the gun misfired a round. Baldwin told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he followed Hutchins’ instructions and pulled the hammer back as far as it would go without cocking it. But in 2022, FBI tests of the .45-caliber Colt prop revolver showed that the gun would not have fired without the trigger being pulled.

Just last month, Baldwin’s lawyers asked the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the gun had been badly damaged during forensic examination at the FBI lab, but the request was denied.

The set of “Rust” at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, NM, on October 23, 2021.Jae C. Hong / AP file

Twists and turns

Baldwin was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter and a firearm enhancement. However, the firearm enhancement was eventually dropped. It reduced his potential prison sentence by five years.

In March 2023, Special Counsel Andrea Reed resigned after it was determined that she could not oversee the case because she was disqualified as a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives under state law. But it didn’t stop there. Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies resigned from the case and appointed Special Counsels Kari T. Morrissey and Jason Lewis.

The following month, charges against Baldwin were dropped, with prosecutors citing “new facts in the case.” “We will therefore be dropping the involuntary manslaughter charges against Mr. Baldwin in order to conduct further investigation,” prosecutors said in a statement at the time. “This decision does not exonerate Mr. Baldwin from criminal liability, and charges may be refiled.”

Halyna Hutchins on January 28, 2019 in Park City, Utah.Fred Hayes / Getty Images file

Over the next few months, Morrissey and Lewis continued to examine evidence and interview witnesses. In October 2023, two sources told NBC News that Baldwin and special prosecutors had discussed reaching a plea deal, but that it was withdrawn and prosecutors planned to take Baldwin’s case to a grand jury. Three months later, Baldwin was indicted by a New Mexico grand jury on a single count of involuntary manslaughter.

Baldwin’s attorneys Luke Nikas and Alex Spiro responded, “We look forward to our day in court.”

Following the actor’s indictment in January, SAG-AFTRA, the union representing more than 150,000 actors, issued a statement criticizing prosecutors’ decision to re-indict him.

The gunsmith sentenced to prison

At the time of Baldwin’s initial charges, the film’s gunsmith, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for supervising the weapons on set, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence. She was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in April and is currently serving an 18-month prison sentence.

Gutierrez-Reed was called to testify in Baldwin’s upcoming trial, but she invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions about Baldwin during her pre-trial deposition in May. It is unclear whether she will testify if she is called to testify.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed watches as her father, Thell Reed, leaves the podium after asking a judge on April 15 not to sentence his daughter to prison.Eddie Moore / Pool via AP

Meanwhile, Dave Halls, the assistant director on the set who pleaded no contest to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation, is expected to testify. In interviews, Baldwin has maintained that Halls declared the weapon “cold,” meaning it was not loaded with live ammunition before it was handed to Baldwin.

However, prosecutors accused Baldwin of giving conflicting versions of events to police and the media about whether he pulled the trigger and whether he followed Hutchins’ directions.

“In short, every time Mr. Baldwin spoke, a different version of events came out of his mouth,” according to a court document filed by special prosecutors this spring.

Baldwin’s trial is expected to last about two weeks.

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