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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Jury chosen in Alec Baldwin manslaughter trial for ‘Rust’ shooting

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Santa Fe, United States – Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial over a fatal shooting on the set of Western movie “Rust” began Tuesday with the selection of a jury who will now 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 broke basic gun safety rules and acted recklessly on set.

Dressed in a dark suit and tie, and wearing thick-rimmed glasses, Baldwin arrived at the courthouse Tuesday with his wife Hilaria, and one of their seven young children.

His brother Stephen, another Hollywood actor, also attended. The family did not speak to media, assembled from around the world outside the courthouse in the southwestern state of New Mexico.

Baldwin is world-famous for roles including hit comedy “30 Rock,” as well as his scathing impersonations of Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live.”

His case 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 behavior during filming.

– ‘Against him’ –

Jury selection was completed Tuesday.

Underlining the challenges inherent to high-profile cases, only a couple of the dozens of potential jurors raised their hands when asked if they had not previously heard or read anything about the “Rust” shooting.

“Maybe he played a role in a movie you didn’t like? Maybe he did a comedy routine or an imitation you didn’t like?” Baldwin’s lawyer Alex Spiro asked, while grilling potential jurors.

“I need to know if any of you have a view of him… that’s going to cause you to come in and lean against him in some way.”

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.

– Jury chosen –

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

The film’s armorer was convicted of manslaughter in the same courthouse earlier this year, and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Potential jurors were grilled Tuesday on whether they are gun owners, have strong views on gun control, or have worked in the movie industry.

After a full day, marred by delays due to technical issues with the courthouse’s audio system, a group of 16 jurors — including alternates — was chosen and sworn in.

The eleven women and five men will determine Baldwin’s fate.

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