Rust Armorer Guilty Of Involuntary Manslaughter In Fatal Shooting Of Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins; Defendant Not Guilty Of Evidence Tampering, Jury Says

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[This was not an outcome I expected. Jan]

A New Mexico jury on Wednesday found Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal 2021 shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the indie Western. The jury decided the defendant was not guilty of evidence tampering

The panel of seven women and five men returned their verdict in the criminal case after just a couple hours of deliberation today. The trial of the crew member was two weeks and saw closing arguments this morning.

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Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer had Gutierrez-Reed taken into custody almost immediately after the verdict was read out. A sentencing hearing is potentially set for next month. The defense have made it clear they plan to appeal.

The stepdaughter of famed movie gun coach Thell Reed, relatively inexperienced armorer Gutierrez-Reed was charged with involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering. She faced up to three years in state prison if found guilty on both charges. With the split verdict, the most Gutierrez-Reed could potentially receive now is about 18 months and a fine of several thousand dollars.

Ever since she was charged back in January 2023, the prosecution has claimed Gutierrez-Reed was responsible for live rounds getting on the Rust set and into the gun that Alec Baldwin was holding that fired during rehearsals on the Bonanza Creek set, striking Hutchins and director Joel Souza. In response, the defense has offered various theories over the past two years about how that fatal bullet got there, including sabotage.

“There’s reasonable doubt she had anything to do ultimately with Halyna Hutchins’ death,” main defense lawyer Jason Bowles said today in his closing argument before the jury, the special prosecutors and Sommer. Reiterating language from his opening statement on February 22, Bowles called his client a “convenient scapegoat,” and added: “The buck stops with production … as in any organization, it starts at the top.”

The prosecution took a different perspective, as expected.

“[Gutierrez-Reed] was negligent, she was careless, she was thoughtless,” Special Prosecutor Kerri Morrissey said today in her closing statement. Proclaiming there is “a mountain of circumstantial evidence” against the defendant, Morrissey added of the defense’s so-called “shotgun approach” strategy: “This is all smoke and mirrors and deflection, they don’t want the truth.”

A visibly distraught Thell Reed was in Santa Fe County courtroom today when the verdict was read out against his stepdaughter. Also in the courtroom, sitting at the back, was Rust ammunition supplier Seth Kenney.

Long at the heart of the mystery of how live rounds got into the gun in Baldwin’s hand, Kenney told the court in his own testimony earlier this week that he believed the 81-year-old Reed wanted to blame him for the accident. “Knowing Thell and having been friends with him for a few years at that point, I know how much he loves his daughter,” Kenney said.

What there seemed to be no debate about in this trial was that to save money, producers on the low-budget indie Western had Gutierrez-Reed working as both the armorer and as assistant to props master Sarah Zachery. The latter struck a plea deal last year and testified for the prosecution last week.

A 2022 report by the Occupational Health & Safety Bureau’s New Mexico office determined that Gutierrez-Reed was not provided “time to conduct her duties to the best of her diligence” and required to “focus on other tasks” like working in the props department. Putting the responsibility for the shooting on Rust producers, OSHA handed out a civil penalty to Rust Productions for $136,793, one of the largest such penalties ever levied by the organization. That penalty was reduced to $100,000 early last year after a protest from the producers.

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After the sentencing of Gutierrez-Reed, the next big move in this tragedy is the July 9-scheduled involuntary manslaughter trial of Rust star-producer Baldwin. Recharged with involuntary manslaughter himself in January and having entered a not guilty plea not long afterward, the multi-Emmy-winning actor was brought up almost as much as the defendant herself in Gutierrez-Reed’s trial.

Potentially looking at 18 months behind bars if found guilty, Baldwin is also fighting a series of civil cases related to the Rust shooting in both California and New Mexico courts.

Although the FBI and other gun examiners disagree, Baldwin has been adamant that he did not pull the trigger on the Colt .45 he was holding that fired and killed Hutchins and wounded Souza.

Rust the movie was resurrected last year with more filming in Montana, and Baldwin and Souza back on board. The completed film has been on the market looking for a buyer.

Source: https://deadline.com/2024/03/rust-movie-armorer-guilty-shooting-death-1235847983/



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