Alec Baldwin “played fantasy with a real gun,” Rust’s trial says

Alec Baldwin “played fantasy with a real gun,” Rust’s trial says
Alec Baldwin “played fantasy with a real gun,” Rust’s trial says

video subtitles, Jury in Rust trial hears opening statements

  • Author, Christal Hayes, Samantha Granville and Emma Vardy
  • Role, BBC News

The trial against Alec Baldwin began on Wednesday in New Mexico. The prosecution and the defense painted completely different pictures of the events that led to the death of camerawoman Halyna Hutchins.

Mr. Baldwin, known for his roles in the sitcom “30 Rock” and his portrayal of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted of manslaughter.

Ms Hutchins, 42, died when a gun Mr Baldwin was rehearsing with went off. It emerged that the film’s gunsmith, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, accidentally mistook blanks for live ammunition she had brought from home.

Mr. Baldwin pleaded not guilty, insisting that he never pulled the trigger when the shot went off.

In its opening statements, the defense portrayed Mr. Baldwin as an actor who was simply doing his job and putting his trust in a team tasked with ensuring gun safety.

Prosecutors argued that he was a man who blatantly disregarded gun safety on a low-budget film set with an inexperienced cast.

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

Mr Baldwin was “playing with a real gun and violating basic gun safety rules,” Ms Johnson argued.

“Even though it was a movie set, it was a real, live workplace for many people,” she said in her opening remarks. “You’ll hear that this workplace had a tight budget… and some of the people hired were inexperienced.”

However, Mr Baldwin’s defence team argued that firearms are treated differently on a film set, where each member of the cast has a defined role and duty, including with regard to firearm safety and handling.

“He just acted the way he has done for generations, and it was the security apparatus that failed them all,” said Baldwin’s attorney Alex Spiro.

“Alec Baldwin committed no crime,” he said firmly, later adding, “It was an actor tampering with a prop.”

The crew members responsible for safety – including Gutierrez-Reed and David Halls, a deputy director and safety coordinator – failed to do their job, he argued.

“Real bullets should never be seen on movie sets,” Spiro said.

Image source, Getty Images

Image description, Halyna Hutchins in 2019

Both Halls and Gutierrez-Reed were charged in the fatal shooting.

A central point of the trial is Mr Baldwin’s claim that he did not pull the trigger when a shot went off from the revolver he was holding.

Prosecutors took aim at this claim early on, detailing the extensive testing the FBI had conducted on the weapon.

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

As the trial progresses, several witnesses will testify, as well as video and audio recordings from the set of Rust, including the day of Ms Hutchins’ murder.

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

Footage from his body camera was shown in court.

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

Mr. Baldwin was visibly uncomfortable, leaning forward and backward, sometimes grimacing and covering his face.

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

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