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Alec Baldwin in January. Alamy Stock Photo
New Mexico

Convicted Rust armourer denied immunity to testify in Alec Baldwin trial

Armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter for her role in the shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust.

A JUDGE IN New Mexico has denied a request to use immunity to compel evidence from a film set armourer in the involuntary manslaughter trial of actor Alec Baldwin who fatally shot a cinematographer during rehearsal for the Western movie Rust.

Armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter for her role in the shooting of Halyna Hutchins on a movie set ranch. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Her statements to investigators and workplace safety regulators will likely feature prominently in Baldwin’s trial.

Further testimony could be limited by the armourer’s reluctance to testify, and Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said on Friday that other witnesses can fill in most of the gaps if she does not testify.

At a pretrial interview in May, Gutierrez-Reed exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to answer all questions.

“It’s pretty clear that she does not intend to cooperate,” Judge Marlowe Sommer said. “I haven’t heard of anything that she might testify to that someone else could not testify to.”

But the judge acknowledged that Gutierrez-Reed could offer new evidence about gun-safety training and whether Baldwin fully participated.

Special prosecutor Kari Morrissey indicated that the state could still call on Gutierrez-Reed to give evidence without immunity. Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed both oppose efforts to compel her testimony.

file-rust-movie-armorer-hannah-gutierrez-reed-stands-by-her-defense-team-during-her-involuntary-manslaughter-trial-tuesday-march-5-2024-at-the-first-judicial-district-courthouse-in-santa-fe-n Armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was sentenced to 18 months in prison for her role in the shooting of Halyna Hutchins on a movie set ranch. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Baldwin figured prominently at her trial, which highlighted gun safety protocols and his authority as a co-producer and the lead actor on Rust.

Gutierrez-Reed is appealing against her conviction and has also been charged separately with carrying a firearm into a Santa Fe bar weeks before the fatal shooting.

A lawyer for Gutierrez-Reed said compelling her to give evidence, even with immunity, would “virtually eliminate” the possibility of a fair trial on the pending firearms charge and could disrupt her appeal.

The virtual hearing also cleared the way for testimony at trial by a Rust crew member.

In a recent pretrial interview, boom operator Zac Sneesby “revealed that he was standing very close to Mr Baldwin when he shot and killed Halyna Hutchins”, special prosecutor Erlinda Ocampo Johnson told the court today.

“Mr Sneesby specifically said he saw Mr Baldwin pull the trigger. And as you know, the defence position has always been that he didn’t pull the trigger. Well, now there’s an eyewitness.”

Also during today’s hearing, Judge Marlowe Sommer ruled against a request by defence lawyers to scuttle the trial because they said Baldwin had no reason to believe the gun could contain live ammunition and was not “subjectively aware” of the risks.

The court will hear a second motion to dismiss the case based on the argument that the firearm was heavily damaged during FBI forensic testing before it could be examined for possible modifications that might exonerate the actor.

“The government took the most critical evidence in this case – the firearm – and destroyed it by repeatedly and pointlessly striking it with a mallet,” the defence said in court filings. “Government agents knew that the firearm would not survive.”

During the fatal rehearsal on 21 October 2021, Baldwin was pointing the gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza, who survived. Baldwin says he pulled back the gun’s hammer but did not pull the trigger.

Prosecutors plan to present evidence at trial that they say shows the firearm “could not have fired absent a pull of the trigger” and was working properly before the shooting.

At Gutierrez-Reed’s trial, an FBI expert testified the gun was fully functional with safety features when it arrived at an FBI laboratory. The expert said he had to strike the fully cocked gun with a mallet and break it for the gun to fire without depressing the trigger.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to the involuntary manslaughter charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

Judge Marlowe Sommer previously rejected another Baldwin motion for dismissal, ruling that the grand jury was able to make an independent judgement on the indictment.

Last year, special prosecutors dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against Baldwin, saying they were informed the gun might have been modified before the shooting and malfunctioned. But they pivoted after receiving a new analysis of the gun and successfully pursued a grand jury indictment.

Press Association