Alec Baldwin’s manslaughter trial over ‘Rust’ shooting begins; actor could face 18 months in prison | – Times of India

Alec Baldwin‘s trial for involuntary manslaughter over a fatal shooting on the set of Western movie “Rust” got under way Tuesday with the selection of a jury who must decide if a crew member’s death was his fault.
The Hollywood A-lister was pointing a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins during a rehearsal in 2021 when it fired a live round, killing her and wounding the movie’s director.
Baldwin, 66, says he did not know the gun was loaded and did not pull the trigger. Prosecutors say he acted recklessly on set and has repeatedly changed his story since the tragic event, which happened nearly three years ago.
After multiple attempts by Baldwin’s lawyers to have the case thrown out all failed, the matter will now be settled at a courthouse in Santa Fe, in the southwestern state of New Mexico.
Jury selection got under way Tuesday morning. Underlining the challenges inherent to high-profile cases, only a couple of the dozens of potential jurors raised their hands when asked by the judge if they had not previously heard or read anything about the “Rust” shooting.
Due to the “30 Rock” actor’s immense fame, and the rarity of on-set deaths, the story has garnered global attention while sharply polarizing public opinion.
Sympathetic observers view Baldwin as a victim who has been pursued by prosecutors in part due to his status as a celebrity and liberal darling.
Others see the death as the easily avoidable result of a movie star’s allegedly unpredictable behaviour during filming.
– ‘No control’ –
“To watch Mr Baldwin’s conduct on the set of ‘Rust’ is to witness a man who has absolutely no control of his own emotions and absolutely no concern for how his conduct affects those around him,” special prosecutor Kari Morrissey has said.
If found guilty, Baldwin faces up to 18 months in prison. It is not yet known if he plans to take the stand in his defense.
Opening arguments are due to start Wednesday. The entire trial is scheduled to conclude Friday of next week, with jury deliberations to follow.
Hutchins — a talented 42-year-old cinematographer originally from Ukraine, who grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle — was killed in October 2021.
The accident occurred during a rehearsal in a small chapel on the Bonanza Creek Ranch, on a sunny afternoon mid-way through the filming of “Rust.”
Baldwin was practicing a scene in which his character, an aging outlaw who has been cornered in the church by two marshals, draws his Colt six-shooter.
The actor says he was told the gun was safe, was instructed by Hutchins to aim the revolver in her direction, and did not pull the trigger.
Live bullets are in any case banned from movie sets, and Baldwin has said it was not his responsibility as an actor to check for them.
Filming of “Rust” was halted by the tragedy, but completed last year on location in Montana.
– ‘Basic gun safety‘ –
The film’s armorer was convicted of manslaughter in the same courthouse earlier this year, and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Her trial revealed arguments the prosecution will likely level against Baldwin.
At the time, armorer Hannah Gutierrez’s defense lawyers said Baldwin “violated some of the most basic gun safety rules you can ever learn,” including never pointing a gun at a person unless you intend to fire it.
“Alec Baldwin’s conduct and his lack of gun safety inside that church on that day is something that he’s going to have to answer for,” responded Morrissey.
“Not with you and not today. That’ll be with another jury, on another day.”
That day has now arrived.
Baldwin — dressed in a dark suit and tie, wearing thick-rimmed glasses — arrived at the courthouse Tuesday with his wife Hilaria, and one of their seven young children.
In a boost for the defense, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer on Monday ruled prosecutors cannot argue Baldwin’s additional role as a producer on “Rust” makes him more culpable.

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