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Alec Baldwin Murder Case Begins

Alec Baldwin’s murder trial got underway in earnest Tuesday as New Mexico prosecutors began presenting their case, telling a newly empaneled jury that the “Rust” actor and producer repeatedly “violated basic firearm safety practices” on the set of the failed Western.

Baldwin arrived at court early with his wife Hilaria and brother Stephen, chatting with lawyers and frowning as he took his seat. Dressed in a suit and tie, Baldwin furiously took notes as the arraignment began, playing around and occasionally taking off his burgundy glasses.

The state began its proceedings with an opening statement from Erlinda Ocampo Johnson, an attorney appointed by New Mexico as special prosecutor.

“When someone is playing pretend with a real gun in a real workplace, and playing pretend with that gun violates basic firearm safety, people’s lives are at risk and people can get killed,” Johnson began. “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what this case is about. It’s simple and straightforward. The evidence will show that someone who was playing pretend with a real gun and violated basic firearm safety is the defendant, Alexander Baldwin.”

The prosecution limited itself to a brief opening statement, turning the floor over to the defense after about 20 minutes. Baldwin’s attorney, Alex Spiro, immediately delivered the crux of his client’s defense: that it was the job of assistant director Dave Halls and gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez-Reed to make sure the gun was safe — not the actor’s.

“(Halls) will tell you he made a tragic mistake. He failed to detect a live round,” Spiro said, emphasizing that the AD said “cold gun” before handing the gun to Baldwin. “Nobody fathomed, imagined or foresaw any danger.”

Spiro said that while rehearsing a scene in a small church, Baldwin received instructions from Halyna Hutchins, a cinematographer who was accidentally shot and killed in an October 2020 incident outside Santa Fe — and from Halls, whose job description included on-set safety.

“The evidence will show that on a movie set, safety has to happen before a gun is in the hands of an actor,” Spiro said, later citing SAG guidelines. “That’s not the actor’s role.”

Spiro repeatedly referred to Baldwin’s role as an actor — never mentioning that he was also a co-producer, and that was deliberate. On Monday, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer ruled that the state could not introduce evidence that Baldwin was also a co-producer of “Rust,” which could mean he was responsible for overall safety on the set.

Gutierrez-Reed was convicted earlier this year and is serving a six-month sentence. Halls filed a motion to dismiss the negligent homicide charge and testified at the gunsmith’s criminal trial, where he openly admitted his mistake on the stand.

Spiro also attacked the investigation, suggesting that the guns were handled by multiple people in the immediate aftermath of the shooting and adding that the prop truck was not secured. This argument would suggest that, like Gutierrez-Reed, Baldwin is trying to infer that a third party may have been responsible for the live ammunition on the set of Rust.

In closing, Spiro noted that “no actor in history” has ever captured live ammunition while shooting a gun scene, in large part because gun safety is not in his job description: “What happened was an unspeakable tragedy,” he said, “but not murder.”

A jury of 12, plus four alternates, was selected Tuesday. The panel includes 11 women and five men.

This story is developing…