Opening Day of “Rust” Armorer’s Trial Reveals Stark Contrasts in Portrayals

On the first day of the criminal trial against armorer Hannah Gutierrez in the wake of the tragic shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust,” opposing attorneys presented starkly different narratives about the 26-year-old weapons handler. Gutierrez faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering, with a potential prison sentence of up to three years if convicted.

Prosecutors alleged that Gutierrez failed in her duty to ensure the absence of live ammunition on the movie set and in Alec Baldwin’s gun. They further accused her of tampering with evidence by providing a crew member with a small baggie of “suspected cocaine” on the night of the shooting. In contrast, Gutierrez’s defense attorneys argued that she was being unfairly made a scapegoat for various safety failures during the production.

During the trial’s opening, jurors were shown graphic video footage captured by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas LeFleur’s lapel camera, depicting the frantic attempts to save Hutchins moments after Baldwin accidentally shot her in the chest with a prop revolver. Hutchins, a talented cinematographer and a beloved wife and mother, tragically succumbed to her injuries later that day.

Special Prosecutor Jason J. Lewis emphasized Hutchins’ artistic prowess and personal qualities, seeking to shift the focus onto the victim. Gutierrez, seated at the defendant’s table, watched the video stoically, occasionally displaying signs of distress.

Lewis stated that crew members would testify about Gutierrez’s alleged unprofessionalism and negligence, claiming that she left firearms and ammunition unattended on set. He also alleged that Gutierrez had unknowingly brought live bullets from her Arizona home to the “Rust” movie set. Gutierrez admitted to loading Baldwin’s Colt .45 revolver with what she believed were inert “dummy” rounds but later expressed regret for not inspecting them more thoroughly. The gun, however, contained live ammunition.

In his opening statement, Gutierrez’s lead attorney, Jason Bowles, challenged the significance of a photograph presented by Lewis, which purportedly showed a live round among dummy rounds in a tray. Bowles argued that it was impossible to discern the nature of the rounds from the picture alone, as dummy bullets possess distinct characteristics. He contended that Gutierrez had made sincere efforts to perform her duties but was overwhelmed by the dual responsibilities of being an armorer and an assistant prop master. Bowles also pointed out management’s mistakes and the failure to create a safe working environment on the set.

Author: CrimeDoor

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