Trial Begins in “Rust” Shooting Tragedy as Prosecutors Seek Answers

The trial for the tragic shooting incident on the set of the movie “Rust” is set to commence in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The prosecution aims to unravel the mystery surrounding the presence of live ammunition among dummy and blank rounds, leading to the accidental death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Hannah Gutierrez, the film’s head armorer, faces felony charges and potential imprisonment for her alleged recklessness in handling the weapons. The trial, which will be televised by Court TV, is expected to run through March 6.

During the jury selection process, it became apparent that almost all potential jurors were familiar with the “Rust” shooting, indicating a slow and meticulous process ahead. Gutierrez, accompanied by her attorney, arrived at the Santa Fe County Courthouse dressed in a black suit and a high-collared champagne-colored blouse. The trial will determine her guilt or innocence on two counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of evidence tampering, and an unrelated gun possession charge.

Gutierrez’s trial follows the indictment of actor Alec Baldwin on involuntary manslaughter charges last month. Baldwin, who has pleaded not guilty, could face trial as early as this summer. The incident occurred when Baldwin, believing the Colt .45 revolver to be empty, rehearsed a scene in a wooden chapel at Bonanza Creek Ranch. He denies pulling the trigger, but the assistant director, David Halls, had handed him the gun, assuring him it was “cold.” Halls previously pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

The tragedy on the set of “Rust” has reignited discussions about safety protocols in the film industry. Joyce M. Gilliard, founder of the nonprofit ISAFE TV and Film, emphasized the need for prioritizing safety on movie sets, citing the preventable loss of another life. The incident occurred a decade after a similar accident during the filming of “Midnight Rider,” which resulted in injuries to Gilliard and the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones.

Prosecutors have built their case against Gutierrez over the past year, alleging that she brought live ammunition to the set. Gutierrez’s defense attorney, Jason Bowles, argues that she is being unfairly blamed for a series of on-set actions and lapses that led to the fatal shooting. Complaints from crew members about safety concerns and cost-cutting measures have echoed Bowles’ claims. The Occupational Safety and Health Bureau of New Mexico held producers responsible for Hutchins’ death, stating that “Rust” failed to provide sufficient time for inspecting ammunition.

The trial faces challenges due to missteps and problems with evidence. Special prosecutors Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis took over the case last spring after Gutierrez and Baldwin were initially charged. The film’s property master, Sarah Zachry, admitted to discarding bullets from another gun immediately after the shooting, and FBI weapons experts shattered the hammer of Baldwin’s gun during ballistics testing. The source of the live bullets remains unknown.

The prosecution plans to introduce allegations of drug use by Gutierrez, including text messages alluding to drug consumption. A former friend of Gutierrez is expected to testify that she witnessed Gutierrez with a small plastic baggie containing a white powdery substance, which she believed to be cocaine. Gutierrez’s defense team disputes these claims and the evidence tampering charge.

Author: CrimeDoor

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