Jury convicts movie armorer of involuntary manslaughter in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

By AFP   March 6, 2024 | 06:59 pm PT
Jury convicts movie armorer of involuntary manslaughter in fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer during a rehearsal on a movie set in New Mexico. Photo by AP/Seth Wenig
The woman in charge of weapons on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie "Rust," where a cinematographer was shot dead, was convicted Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter.

A jury in New Mexico took just over two hours to find Hannah Gutierrez guilty of the death of Halyna Hutchins in October 2021.

A 10-day trial heard how as the film's armorer, Gutierrez had been ultimately responsible for the use of live rounds on set – a red line across the industry.

Jurors had also heard how she had repeatedly failed to adhere to basic safety rules, leaving guns unattended on the set of the budget Western, and allowing actors – including Baldwin – to wave the weapons around.

"This is not a case where Hannah Gutierrez made one mistake and that one mistake was accidentally putting a live round into that gun," prosecutor Kari Morrissey told the jury in her closing argument Wednesday.

"This case is about constant, never-ending safety failures that resulted in the death of a human being and nearly killed another."

Hutchins was shot by a live round fired from the Colt .45 that Baldwin was holding in a church on the New Mexico set. Director Joel Souza was wounded by the same bullet.

Baldwin has repeatedly denied responsibility, insisting he did not pull the trigger on the gun, which should not have been loaded with a live round. His own involuntary manslaughter trial is expected in July.

Call for weapons ban

The tragedy sent shockwaves through Hollywood and led to calls for a complete ban on the use of weapons on movie sets.

Industry insiders, however, insisted that rules were already in place to prevent such incidents, and that those working on "Rust" had not followed them.

Morrissey said on the morning Hutchins was shot, the armorer, who is also known as Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was characteristically haphazard with her supervision of the more than 20 guns the production was using, and was not present as Baldwin and the crew prepared for a scene.

"She left the gun in the church contrary to all the industry standards for armorers on movie sets," Morrissey said. "As you heard from many witnesses, she would leave guns unattended all the time. There was nothing unusual about October 21," the day of the fatal shooting.

Gutierrez, Morrissey said, had brought live rounds onto the set, and did not perform basic checks to ensure the dummy rounds she was loading into guns were inert, including shaking them to hear their characteristic rattle.

"Folks, if she's not checking the dummy ammunition... to make sure that those rounds... are in fact dummy rounds, this was a game of Russian Roulette every time an actor had a gun," she told the jury.

The judge remanded Gutierrez, 26, in custody ahead of her sentencing, which is not expected before next month. She faces up to 18 months' prison.

The jury found Gutierrez not guilty of a separate charge of evidence tampering, relating to the alleged disposal of cocaine in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

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