Alec Baldwin heads to trial over Rust shooting death. Here’s who’s who in the case

A dozen people were inside a movie set church the day Alec Baldwin shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza during a rehearsal for the Western film ‘Rust’

Susan Montoya Bryan
Wednesday 10 July 2024 17:18
Police bodycam shows Alec Baldwin moments after Rust shooting

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

A dozen people were inside a movie set church the day Alec Baldwin shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza during a rehearsal for the Western filmRust.

Now, almost three years later and after countless hearings and much legal wrangling, Baldwin is standing trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Some of those who were inside the church that fateful day in 2021 are expected to testify.

The witness list also includes numerous investigators, firearms experts and likely the film's armorer — who is appealing a conviction for her role in the shooting.

Baldwin, the lead actor and co-producer of the film, has claimed the gun fired accidentally after he followed instructions to point it toward Hutchins, who was behind the camera. Unaware that it was loaded with a live round, he said he pulled back the hammer — not the trigger — and it fired.

Prosecutors plan to present evidence that the gun's trigger had to be pulled. They have said Baldwin shares responsibility for what happened that day.

Here’s a look at the key players in the criminal trial of an actor who has been a TV and movie mainstay for decades:

THE DEFENDANT

ALEC BALDWIN — Known for his roles in the early blockbuster “The Hunt for Red October,” Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and the sitcom “30 Rock," Baldwin's career has spanned more than four decades and has included other gun-toting roles. Baldwin has twice been charged in Hutchins’ death. Prosecutors dismissed an earlier charge, then revived it through a grand jury after receiving a new analysis of the revolver he pointed at Hutchins. An indictment alleges Baldwin caused Hutchins’ death — either by negligence or “total disregard or indifference” for safety. He has pleaded not guilty.

WITNESSES

HANNAH GUTIERREZ-REED — The stepdaughter of renowned sharpshooter and weapons consultant Thell Reed, Gutierrez-Reed was 24 at the time of the deadly rehearsal. “Rust” was her second assignment as an armorer in a feature film. Her attorneys argued that she was scapegoated, pointing to safety concerns that went beyond their client. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison on an involuntary manslaughter conviction, which she's appealing. At sentencing, Gutierrez-Reed said she had tried to do her best on the set despite not having “proper time, resources and staffing.”

DAVID HALLS — With credits including “The Matrix Reloaded,” Halls had worked on dozens of films over a 30-year career. The assistant director and safety coordinator pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon and received a suspended sentence of six months of probation. It was learned after “Rust” producers halted work on the film in 2021 that Halls had been fired from a previous job after a gun went off on a set and wounded a member of the film crew.

JOEL SOUZA — A director and writer, Souza wrote the screenplay for “Rust.” Although he had worked on smaller projects over the years, he made his feature debut in 2019 with “Crown Vic.” Baldwin was among the producers on that project, too, and had said he was looking forward to working with Souza on the western. Souza was wounded by the same bullet that killed Hutchins. Souza testified previously he moved in behind Hutchins for a closer look at the camera angle and never saw the gun that shot him.

ROSS ADDIEGO — He was hired by Rust Productions as a front-line crew member who built and operated systems for guiding the film’s camera. He was among those in the church the day Hutchins was killed. He and other crew members are suing the producers, claiming their failure to follow industry safety rules induced emotional distress.

ZAC SNEESBY — A sound engineer and boom operator, Sneesby has worked on numerous projects, with “Stranger Things” being among his most recent work. He also has mixed sound for the art collaborative Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. He said in a recent pretrial interview that he was standing very close to Baldwin when the actor shot and killed Hutchins. He told prosecutors he saw Baldwin pull the trigger.

LUCIEN HAAG — A firearms expert with a consulting company based in Arizona, Haag has been tapped to testify in numerous criminal cases on subjects that include firearms identification and the reconstruction of shootings. Prosecutors have identified Haag and his son, Michael, as two of the country's leading experts on firearms forensics. The pair examined the gun that Baldwin was using during the rehearsal.

PROSECUTORS

KARI MORRISSEY — A veteran lawyer whose experience includes hundreds of trials, Morrissey took over as a special prosecutor in March 2023. She has practiced law in New Mexico for more than 20 years, having graduated from the University of New Mexico's law school. Accused of being overzealous by Baldwin's legal team, Morrissey has not been one to back down during the many hearings leading up to the trial. Throughout her career, her focus has included criminal defense and civil rights-related cases.

ERLINDA JOHNSON — Joining the team less than three months ago, Johnson had to be a quick study. Her specialty has been criminal defense and personal injury. She was tapped in a high-profile public corruption case to defend former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who resigned in 2015 amid revelations she used campaign funds to fuel a gambling addiction. Johnson also previously worked as a federal prosecutor on drug enforcement and organized crime investigations after serving as an assistant district attorney in the Albuquerque area.

BALDWIN'S ATTORNEYS

LUKE NIKAS — With a resume that boasts top billing on numerous legal MVP lists, Nikas is a graduate of Harvard Law School and a partner in the New York office of one of the world's largest law firms. When the charges were first announced against Baldwin, Nikas called it a miscarriage of justice, vowing his team would fight the charges and would win. He's best known for his work in the art world, having represented museums, galleries, auction houses and collectors. He also has recovered works of art by Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso and led the defense in a forgery case that rocked New York's art world.

ALEX SPIRO — A fellow Harvard grad and partner with Nikas at Quinn, Emanual, Urquhart & Sullivan, Spiro works on white collar and government enforcement cases as well as sports and entertainment litigation. He previously served as a Manhattan prosecutor, having a hand in the conviction of two notorious killers. His client list while in private practice has included Elon Musk, Jay-Z and Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.

THE JUDGE

MARY MARLOWE SOMMER — Her decades-long career has included work as a law clerk, a defense attorney and a hearing officer who handled thousands of cases involving domestic violence and family matters. In 2010, Marlowe Sommer was appointed to the First Judicial District Court by then-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. When sentencing Gutierrez-Reed in April, the judge told the defendant that anything less than the maximum sentence would not be appropriate, citing what she called recklessness. If Gutierrez-Reed's trial is any indication, Marlowe Sommer will keep the attorneys on track and on schedule in what will be a high-profile proceeding.

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