Night before ‘Rust’ shooting armorer smoked ‘to get high,’ texts show

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 3:39 PM

By Andrew Hay

SANTA FE, N.M. (Reuters) – New Mexico prosecutors on Friday showed jurors in the trial of “Rust” weapons handler Hannah Gutierrez texts in which she said she smoked to “get high” the night before the movie’s cinematographer was fatally shot on set in October 2021.

In court filings, prosecutors have alleged Gutierrez’s use of marijuana, cocaine and alcohol on evenings after filming may have led to her impairment at work on Oct. 21, 2021 when she mistakenly loaded a live round into a gun actor Alec Baldwin was rehearsing with. The texts shown Friday, the second day of testimony in the trial, did not specify a drug.

An expert witness brought by the prosecution who had analyzed texts from Gutierrez’s phone testified Friday and showed texts in which she says at 7:48 pm on Oct. 20, 2021, “heading down to get high out back.” Around half an hour later she texts “I’m still smoking.”

Prosecutor Kari Morrissey told Reuters she did not intend to call an expert witness on drug use because no blood tests were carried out on Gutierrez after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot dead.

Gutierrez’s defense lawyers have argued that prosecutors’ drug use allegations are speculative, without evidence and an attempt to infer character flaws and prejudice the jury against her.

Hutchins died when the Italian-made Pietta reproduction Colt .45 revolver Baldwin was rehearsing with fired the live round, hitting the rising star cinematographer in the chest.

Legal experts say that should prosecutors persuade the jury Gutierrez was impaired on set, where she was responsible for firearms safety, she could be convicted of a charge of involuntary manslaughter which carries up to 18 months.

Gutierrez is also charged with evidence tampering for allegedly handing a bag of cocaine to a fellow crew member after the shooting in order to prevent police from finding it.

Gutierrez has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay; editing by Donna Bryson and Aurora Ellis)