AFP7 March 2024 | 6:10

'Rust' armourer found guilty over deadly on-set shooting

A movie set technician who loaded Alec Baldwin's gun before it was fired and killed a woman was convicted of her death.

'Rust' armourer found guilty over deadly on-set shooting

The jury in the Alec Baldwin ‘Rust’ movie shooting trial handed down a guilty verdict to the movie’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez for involuntary manslaughter. Photo: X/Law & Crime (screenshot)

Los Angeles, United States - The armourer who loaded the gun that killed a cinematographer on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie "Rust" was convicted Wednesday of involuntary manslaughter.

A jury in New Mexico took just over two hours to find Hannah Gutierrez guilty of the death of Halyna Hutchins in October 2021 during the filming of the budget Western.

A 10-day trial heard how Gutierrez had been ultimately responsible for the use of live rounds on set -- a red line across the industry.

The court had also heard how she had repeatedly failed to adhere to basic safety rules, leaving guns unattended, and allowing actors -- including Baldwin -- to wave weapons around.

"This is not a case where Hannah Gutierrez made one mistake and that one mistake was accidentally putting a live round into that gun," prosecutor Kari Morrissey told the jury in her closing argument Wednesday.

"This case is about constant, never-ending safety failures that resulted in the death of a human being and nearly killed another."

Hutchins was hit by a live round fired from the Colt .45 that Baldwin was holding for a scene inside a wooden church on the New Mexico set. Director Joel Souza was wounded by the same bullet.

Baldwin has repeatedly denied responsibility, insisting he did not pull the trigger.

Ballistics experts have dismissed the claim, saying the gun could not have discharged any other way.

His own involuntary manslaughter trial is expected in July.

The tragedy sent shockwaves through Hollywood and led to calls for a complete ban on the use of weapons on movie sets.

Industry insiders, however, insisted that rules were already in place to prevent such incidents and that those working on "Rust" had not followed them.

'Russian roulette' 

Morrissey said on the day Hutchins was shot, the armourer, who is also known as Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was characteristically haphazard with her supervision of the more than 20 guns the production was using and was not present as Baldwin and the crew prepared the scene.

"She left the gun in the church, contrary to all the industry standards for armourers on movie sets," Morrissey said.

"As you heard from many witnesses, she would leave guns unattended all the time. There was nothing unusual about October 21," the day of the fatal shooting.

Hutchins, who was 42 at the time of her death and the mother of a young child, was standing near the camera that would be used to film the scene.

The bullet passed through her chest and hit Souza, the director.

Hutchins was airlifted to a hospital but declared dead that day, having suffered massive bleeding.

Investigators found a total of six live rounds on the set.

Gutierrez, Morrissey said, did not perform basic checks to ensure the dummy rounds she thought she was loading into guns were inert, including shaking them to hear their characteristic rattle.

"Folks, if she's not checking the dummy ammunition... to make sure that those rounds... are in fact dummy rounds, this was a game of Russian roulette every time an actor had a gun," she told the jury.

Gutierrez, 26, showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

The judge remanded her in custody ahead of her sentencing, which is not expected before next month.

She faces up to 18 months in prison.

The jury found Gutierrez not guilty of a separate charge of evidence tampering, relating to the alleged disposal of cocaine in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

Dave Halls, the film's safety coordinator and assistant director who handed Baldwin the loaded gun, agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors last year and was sentenced to six months' probation.

Hutchins' parents welcomed the verdict against Gutierrez.

"We look forward to the justice system continuing to make sure that everyone else who is responsible for Halyna's death is required to face the legal consequences for their actions," they said in a statement released through their Los Angeles-based lawyer.

Filming of "Rust" was halted by the tragedy, but completed last year on location in Montana.

The cinematographer's widower, Matthew Hutchins, who has already settled a wrongful death suit with "Rust" producers, served as an executive producer.

No release date has been set for the movie.


© Agence France-Presse