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Alec Baldwin ‘violated basic firearm safety rules,’ prosecutors say

Alec Baldwin ‘played pretend with a real gun’ and ‘broke basic firearm safety rules’ in fatal 2021 shooting on movie set Rust– the prosecutor’s office argued in its opening speeches at the trial, which will begin this week.

Ukrainian cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died in October 2021 after she was shot with a gun held by the 66-year-old actor on the set of a film in New Mexico.

The weapon, a reproduction of an 1873 Single Action military revolver, was fired with live ammunition accidentally loaded by gunsmith Hannah Gutierrez, killing the rising film star and wounding director Joel Souza.

Prosecutors said some of the film crew left the set over concerns about a “safety violation” related to firearms on set, adding: “On each occasion the defendant handled this firearm, he did not safety check it with the inexperienced gunsmith (Gutierrez-Reed)” because he “did not want to offend her.”

Mr Baldwin’s finger was “on or near the trigger” multiple times before the incident, prosecutors said, suggesting the film was made on a “limited budget” and with an “inexperienced” cast, including a gunsmith.

“This was an unspeakable tragedy, but Alec Baldwin committed no crime,” Mr. Baldwin’s defense team said in its opening statement, adding that “those basic rules (of firearm safety) are not basic rules that apply on a movie set” and that the actor “had nothing to do” with the failings that led to Ms. Hutchins’ death.

“He was an actor playing a character,” the actor’s attorney, Alex Spiro, told the courtroom. He told the jury, “You’ve all seen gunfire in the movies,” adding, “Real bullets should never be on movie sets.

The defense argued that there were people on the set whose job was to ensure the security of both the set and the firearm, and that these people failed to fulfill their duties.

At the opening of the trial on Wednesday, slightly delayed by Wi-Fi problems in the courtroom, a 12-person New Mexico jury and four alternates — 11 women and five men selected Tuesday — heard arguments from prosecutors who argued that Mr. Baldwin disregarded safety rules while filming before pointing the gun at Mr. Hutchins, 42, during the ordeal, cocking it and pulling the trigger as they set up the camera on a set southwest of Santa Fe.

Since the incident in October 2021, Mr Baldwin has claimed the gun simply “went off”. ABC news In an interview two months later, Mr. Baldwin told George Stephanopoulos that he did not pull the trigger.

An FBI test conducted in 2022 found the gun was in normal working order and did not discharge from a full draw without the trigger being pulled. The prosecution’s opening statement Wednesday referred to those tests, saying the gun “functioned perfectly as designed.”

In January 2022, prosecutors charged Mr. Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter.

Three months later, they dropped the charges after Mr. Baldwin’s lawyers presented photographic evidence that the gun had been modified, saying it would be easier to shoot, bolstering the actor’s argument that it was an accidental discharge.

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

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

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

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

With Reuters

This story is being updated