Alec Baldwin Gets His Day in Court: Trial Begins in Fatal Set Shooting

Nearly three years after accidentally shooting cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, actor Alec Baldwin gets his day in court on Wednesday, as his involuntary manslaughter trial begins in Santa Fe, N.M.

Erlinda Ocampo Johnson, a defense lawyer who was appointed by the Santa Fe D.A.’s office as one of two special prosecutors in the case, will deliver an opening statement.

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She is expected to lay out a road map for the panel of 16 jurors, including four alternates, explaining what happened on the set of “Rust,” and why the state believes Baldwin is guilty.

The state must prove that Baldwin was “reckless, wanton and willful” when he aimed his Colt .45 at Hutchins and pulled the trigger. Prosecutors are expected to go to lengths to persuade the jury that Baldwin did, in fact, fire the gun. To prove that it was in proper working order, the state is expected to rely on several forensic experts and on the gun’s manufacturer, Alessandro Pietta, who will travel from Italy to testify.

Baldwin’s defense team will then give its opening statement. The defense is expected to argue that Baldwin could not have acted with “wanton” or “willful” disregard of Hutchins’ safety, because he had no reason to believe that the gun was loaded with live ammunition.

The lead defense lawyer, Alex Spiro, previewed some of the argument during jury selection on Tuesday, when he asked the panel if it is reasonable to rely on gun experts when handling firearms. The defense will argue that Baldwin relied on Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer on “Rust,” to make sure that the gun was safe, and on Dave Halls, the first assistant director, to oversee safety on set.

Baldwin has said that Halls declared the gun to be “cold” before handing it to him — meaning it did not contain any explosive charge — though Halls has a different recollection.

Both sides are expected to make use of exhibits — including video, photos and audio — in making their opening presentations to the jury. Johnson is expected to play officer lapel video, which shows the harrowing scene when deputies arrived at the church at the Bonanza Creek Ranch. She is also expected to show photos of Hutchins and of the gun. She is also expected to play video clips from “Rust,” which show Baldwin handling the gun at other times on set.

The defense will also show video clips, and play audio from the 911 call, in which the shooting was described as “accidental.”

Prosecutors will then begin calling witnesses to make their case. They are expected to begin with the deputies who first arrived on scene, to give jurors a starting point to understand what happened. The state has 44 witnesses on its witness list, though it not expected to call all of them.

A key witness is director Joel Souza, who was wounded in the shooting. Souza also testified at the February trial of Gutierrez Reed. He completed filming of “Rust” with Baldwin in Montana in 2023. On Monday it was revealed in court that Souza had filed a legal claim for his injuries against the production, and reached a settlement.

The defense has listed 14 witnesses, including Halls, the first A.D., and Robert Shilling, a former investigator for the Santa Fe district attorney’s office who has blasted the sheriff’s investigation. The defense has also listed Ryan Winterstern, one of the film’s producers, who made a brief appearance as a state witness at the earlier trial.

The state has been given five days to make its case, with three days for the defense to respond. The closing arguments are expected to be held on July 19.

Baldwin gave multiple interviews after the shooting. He spoke to detectives numerous times, as well as to a workplace safety investigator and to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Some or all of those interviews could be played for the jury.

Still unknown is whether Baldwin will let those comments stand as his last word on the subject, or feel the need to add further explanation on the witness stand, which would expose him to cross examination.

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