Alec Baldwin cast as reckless flouter of rules at his trial in cinematographer’s shooting

Special prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson repeatedly referred to Baldwin playing “make-believe” with a revolver on the set of the film ‘Rust,’ and said it led to very real danger and the death of Halyna Hutchins

Published - July 11, 2024 11:56 am IST

Actor Alec Baldwin stands during a break in his involuntary manslaughter trial over a fatal shooting on the set of the film, “Rust,” in District Court, in Santa Fe, N.M., Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Actor Alec Baldwin stands during a break in his involuntary manslaughter trial over a fatal shooting on the set of the film, “Rust,” in District Court, in Santa Fe, N.M., Wednesday, July 10, 2024. | Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin

Prosecutors sought to cast Alec Baldwin as someone who flouts rules and has little regard for safety on the first day of his New Mexico trial in the shooting of a cinematographer.

Special prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson repeatedly referred to Baldwin playing “make-believe” with a revolver on the set of the film Rust, and said it led to very real danger and the death of Halyna Hutchins, whom she called “a vibrant 42-year-old rising star.”

Ocampo Johnson told jurors in her opening statement Wednesday that Baldwin “requested to be assigned the biggest gun available” and that during a training session for it, he had “people filming him while he’s running around shooting this gun.”

The prosecutor said behind-the-scenes video will show Baldwin casually disregarding basic firearm safety.

“You will see him using this gun as a pointer to point at people, point at things,” Ocampo Johnson said. “You will see him cock the hammer when he is not supposed to cock the hammer, you will see him put his finger on the trigger when his finger’s not supposed to be on the trigger.”

Special prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson shows a bullet in an evidence bag during actor Alec BaldwinÕs hearing in Santa Fe County District Court, Wednesday, July 10, 2024, in Santa Fe, N.M. Baldwin is facing a single charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a cinematographer.

Special prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson shows a bullet in an evidence bag during actor Alec BaldwinÕs hearing in Santa Fe County District Court, Wednesday, July 10, 2024, in Santa Fe, N.M. Baldwin is facing a single charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a cinematographer. | Photo Credit: POOL

Hutchins’ death and the wounding of director Joel Souza nearly three years ago sent shock waves through the film industry and led to the felony involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin that could result in up to 18 months in prison.

The trial of the 66-year-old star of 30 Rock and frequent host of Saturday Night Live continues Thursday with testimony from a crime scene technician with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department.

The beginning of the testimony of the technician, Marissa Poppell, allowed jurors to see the revolver and the spent round from the shooting.

Baldwin’s lawyer Alex Spiro emphasized in his opening statement that Baldwin did only what actors always do. “He must be able to take that weapon and use it in the way that the person he’s playing would,” Spiro told jurors.

That includes pulling the trigger. Baldwin has said the gun was fired accidentally, but Spiro said that it still would not be manslaughter even if he had willfully fired it.

“On a movie set, you’re allowed to pull that trigger,” said Spiro.

Spiro called the shooting an “unspeakable tragedy” and that an “amazing person” dies, but said the responsibility lies with the film’s armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who has already been convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and of assistant director David Halls, who told Baldwin the gun was “cold.”

“It had been checked and double-checked by those responsible for ensuring the gun was safe,” Spiro said. “He did not tamper with it, he did not load it himself. He did not leave it unattended.”

The first witness to take the stand was Nicholas LeFleur, the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the movie set at Bonanza Creek Ranch after the shooting, and his lapel camera video gave jurors a glimpse of the chaotic scene: a grim view of an apparently unconscious Hutchins as LeFleur and others worked to revive her.

Later in the video, LeFleur can be seen telling Baldwin not to speak to the other potential witnesses, but Baldwin repeatedly does.

“Was Mr. Baldwin supposed to be talking about the incident?” special prosecutor Kari Morrissey asked him.

“No ma’am,” LeFleur replied.

“Does he appear to be doing it anyway?” Morrissey asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” LeFleur said.

Among those sitting in the gallery behind Baldwin watching the trial were his wife Hilaria Baldwin, younger brother Stephen Baldwin and older sister Elizabeth Keuchler — who wiped away tears at times during the proceedings.

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