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Alec Baldwin ‘played pretend with a real gun’, Rust trial hears

Via Christal Hayes, Samantha Granville and Emma Vardy, BBC News

Rust trial jury hears opening statements

The Alec Baldwin trial opened in New Mexico on Wednesday, with the prosecution and defense presenting starkly different pictures of the events leading up to the death of cameraman Halyna Hutchins.

Mr Baldwin, known for his roles in the comedy 30 Rock and as Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, could face up to 18 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter.

Ms Hutchins, 42, died after the gun Mr Baldwin was practicing with went off. It was discovered that the film’s weapon maker, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, had accidentally mixed fake bullets with real ones she had brought from home.

Mr. Baldwin pleaded not guilty and insisted he did not pull the trigger when the gun went off.

In opening statements, the defense portrayed Mr. Baldwin as just an actor doing his job, who placed his trust in the team tasked with ensuring the safety of the weapons.

Prosecutors argued that he was a flagrant disregarder of gun safety on a small-budget film set with an inexperienced cast.

Prosecutor Erlinda Johnson opened the trial by telling the jury that the case was “simple” and “direct.”

Ms Johnson argued that Mr Baldwin “played around with a real gun” and “violated basic gun safety rules”.

“Even though it’s a film set, it’s a real, lived-in workplace for a lot of people,” she said in her opening remarks. “You’ll hear that it’s a tight budget… and some of the people hired are inexperienced.”

However, Mr. Baldwin’s defense team argued that weapons are handled differently on film sets, where each crew member has designated roles and responsibilities, including safety and weapons issues.

“He was just acting like he had been doing for generations, and the safety system itself failed,” said Baldwin’s attorney Alex Spiro.

“Alec Baldwin committed no crime,” he asserted firmly, then added: “He was just an actor handling props.”

He argued that crew members responsible for safety — including Gutierrez-Reed and David Halls, assistant director and safety coordinator — failed to do their jobs.

“Live ammunition is never allowed on set,” Mr. Spiro said.

Getty Images Videographer Halyna Hutchinsbeautiful pictures

Halyna Hutchins in 2019

Both Halls and Gutierrez-Reed face charges in connection with the deadly shooting.

Halls pleaded guilty to using a firearm without a safe handle and Gutierrez-Reed was convicted of involuntary manslaughter earlier this year and was convicted 18 months in the prison.

A key issue in the trial was Mr. Baldwin’s assertion that he did not pull the trigger when the pistol he was holding went off.

Prosecutors targeted the complaint from the start, detailing extensive testing the FBI conducted on the weapon.

“It worked perfectly as designed,” Ms Johnson told the jury.

Mr. Baldwin’s team also conducted experiments and noted that in one of them, The FBI destroyed some parts of the weapon. – thus preventing it from being used for further analysis as part of their defense.

The remainder of the trial will include a number of witnesses and video and audio from the Rust studio, including the day Ms Hutchins was killed.

The first witness called Wednesday was police officer Nicholas LeFleur, who arrived at the scene and attempted to assist Hutchins after she was shot.

Footage from his body camera was played in court.

The room, which seats about 100 people, was filled with heavy sighs as they witnessed Ms Hutchins’ final moments.

Mr. Baldwin appeared very uncomfortable, leaning forward repeatedly, occasionally grimacing and covering his face with his hands.

The trial is scheduled to continue until July 19. Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison.

More on the Rust shooting


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