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Prosecutor tells court Baldwin broke gun laws

A New Mexico prosecutor says Alec Baldwin broke “basic rules” of gun handling in the 2021 killing of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, while his lawyer says he was let down by on-set safety experts who have already been convicted in the case.

Baldwin, 66, charged in the first fatal shooting on a Hollywood movie set in three decades, took notes at the defense table and listened calmly as opening statements were made in his manslaughter trial.

The trial is essentially unprecedented in U.S. history; an actor was found guilty of death by gunshot while filming a movie.

The 12-person New Mexico jury and four alternate jurors — 11 women and five men — heard prosecutor Erlinda Johnson argue that Baldwin disregarded safety rules while shooting the low-budget film before pointing the gun at Hutchins during a rehearsal, cocking it and pulling the trigger while setting up the camera on a set southwest of Santa Fe.

“The evidence will show that the defendant, Alexander Baldwin, is someone who pretended to use a real gun and violated basic firearm safety rules,” Johnson said.

Defense attorney Alex Spiro argues that even if Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger of the gun, it was not a crime. (EPA PHOTO)

Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria Baldwin, sat in the second row of the public gallery, with his brother Stephen Baldwin sitting in front of her.

His lawyer, Alex Spiro, named Rust gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez, head of the gun safety department, and first assistant director Dave Halls, responsible for overall on-set safety.

Both were convicted in the shooting, and Spiro said they failed to check the ammunition in the gun to make sure Baldwin could use it safely.

“There were people responsible for firearms safety, but actor Alec Baldwin did not commit any crime,” Spiro said.

Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured when Baldwin’s reproduction 1873 Single Action Army revolver fired live ammunition, accidentally loaded by Gutierrez.

Since being interviewed by police on Oct. 21, 2021, the day of the shooting, Baldwin has claimed the gun simply “went off.”

In an interview with American station ABC News two months later, Baldwin told George Stephanopoulos that he did not pull the trigger.

The 2022 FBI test found the firearm was in normal working order and could not be fired at full cocking without pulling the trigger.

The signal that the defense was backing off from that position came when Spiro said that even if Baldwin had pulled the trigger, it was not a crime.

He said Gutierrez and Halls’ job was to allow the actor to “wave the gun, point it and pull the trigger just like actors do.”

“On a movie set, you’re allowed to pull the trigger, so even if he pulled the trigger intentionally, as prosecutors say, that doesn’t mean he committed murder,” Spiro said.

In January 2022, prosecutors charged Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter.

Three months later, they dropped the charges after Baldwin’s lawyers presented photographic evidence of the gun’s modifications, which they said would make it easier to shoot, bolstering the actor’s accidental discharge argument.

In January, prosecutors convened a grand jury to reinstate the charges after an independent firearms expert corroborated a 2022 FBI study.

The gun was destroyed by tests conducted by the FBI, and Baldwin’s lawyers will tell jurors that the destruction of the gun prevented them from proving it had been modified.

Gunsmith Gutierrez, whose job on the set of Rust involved safely handling firearms, was convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter for loading live ammunition.

Prosecutors will have to convince jurors that Baldwin is also guilty of willful and gross neglect of duty.