‘Rust’ shooting: Jury selection begins for armorer charged with manslaughter

SANTA FE, N.M. — Jury selection began Wednesday in the trial of Hannah Gutierrez, the armorer who was tasked with ensuring gun safety on the set of “Rust” before a prop gun went off in 2021, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

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Gutierrez, who also goes by the last name Gutierrez-Reed, earlier pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and evidence tampering. She maintains that she was not responsible for Hutchins’ death.

Actor Alec Baldwin, who was holding the gun when it fired the deadly shot on Oct. 21, 2021, also faces charges in the shooting.

Prosecutors allege that Gutierrez was high while she was handling the ammunition used on the set and that she could not distinguish between dummy and live rounds.

Authorities said six live rounds were found in “multiple, separate locations” on the set, and that text messages show that Gutierrez was abusing marijuana and cocaine. Prosecutors pointed to an incident after Gutierrez was interviewed by sheriff’s deputies in which she passed off a bag containing what appeared to be cocaine to another person who worked on the set.

Gutierrez’s attorney emphasized in court records that prosecutors have no conclusive evidence to show that his client was abusing drugs or to prove that she gave anyone cocaine. She was never tested for intoxication and officials never tested the substance inside the bag that she passed off.

Her attorneys are expected to argue that Gutierrez is being offered as a scapegoat for the chaos on set, Reuters reported. Among other things, they point to Baldwin and “Rust” assistant director David Halls, who they say failed to follow firearm safety procedures.

Prosecutors plan to present “substantial evidence” that Gutierrez unwittingly brought live rounds onto the set, The Associated Press reported. They said in court filings that Gutierrez should have noticed the live rounds and taken action before the shooting.

On the set of “Rust,” Gutierrez was in charge of ensuring that guns were loaded with the proper ammunition — both blank and dummy rounds.

Her trial is expected to last about two weeks.

Authorities said Baldwin was setting up for a scene while holding a prop revolver when the gun went off, firing a live round that killed Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

Baldwin has denied that he pulled the trigger. He was charged with manslaughter in January after authorities dropped earlier charges against him.

After the shooting, authorities also charged Halls with negligent use of a deadly weapon. He pleaded no contest in exchange for a suspended sentence with 6 months of unsupervised probation, court records show.