Judge to consider barring drug allegations from ‘Rust’ trial

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 6:06 AM

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – A New Mexico judge on Wednesday will consider a request from “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez to block from trial prosecutors’ allegations her supposed drug use contributed to Alec Baldwin’s 2021 fatal on-set shooting of the film’s cinematographer.

New Mexico state prosecutors allege “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez used marijuana, cocaine and alcohol on evenings after filming and this impaired her judgment the day of the shooting, leading her to mistakenly load a live round into Baldwin’s gun.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. His trial date has not yet been set.

Should the jury in Gutierrez’s trial, set to start Feb. 21 in Santa Fe, see a link between alleged drug use and cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ death, Gutierrez could be seen to have acted with reckless disregard for safety and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, legal experts said.

Prosecutors have said they do not have drug tests or evidence beyond witness statements to back up the drug allegations.

“The government’s entire argument is based on speculation and conjecture,” Gutierrez’s lawyer Jason Bowles said in a court filing, requesting a charge of “evidence tampering,” relating to the armorer’s alleged cocaine posession, be excluded from the manslaughter trial.

Hutchins was killed when a reproduction Colt .45 revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with fired a live round that struck the rising star cinematographer. The same bullet also struck director Joel Souza, who survived.

Live rounds are strictly forbidden on movie sets.

Prosecutors allege Gutierrez brought the live rounds on set at the start of the production in an ammunition box mixed with inert, dummy rounds.

Bowles claimed the live rounds may have been planted on set by disgruntled crew members or a props supplier.

Gutierrez, acting as chief weapons handler on her second production, said she checked each round while loading Baldwin’s gun then handed it to first assistant director Dave Halls.

Halls is the only member of the production to be convicted for Hutchins death after he entered a plea deal.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay; editing by Donna Bryson, Editing by William Maclean)