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HomeNewsNew Mexico Jury Finds “Rust” Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter

New Mexico Jury Finds “Rust” Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter

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Photo of Hannah Guiterrez-Reed being handcuffed in court
Source: Reuters

A New Mexico jury delivered a mixed verdict on Wednesday, finding Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the armorer for the movie “Rust,” guilty of involuntary manslaughter while acquitting her of tampering with evidence.

The 26-year-old now faces a potential sentence of up to 18 months in state prison. Although a sentencing date has yet to be set, Gutierrez-Reed was immediately taken into custody following the verdict.

Gutierrez-Reed’s reaction to the jury’s decision was subdued, as she removed her necklace before being escorted away by a deputy. Meanwhile, her mother, seated behind her, displayed visible distress as the judge ordered Gutierrez-Reed’s detention pending sentencing.

The trial, spanning nearly two weeks, revolved around the tragic incident on the set of “Rust” in 2021, where actor Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun that contained a live round, resulting in the death of cinematographer Haylna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

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During the prosecution’s closing arguments, special prosecutor Kari T. Morrissey emphasized Gutierrez-Reed’s negligence, stating she was “negligent, careless, thoughtless” and prioritized her career over the crew’s safety.

In defense, Gutierrez-Reed’s attorney, Jason Bowles, argued that the prosecution failed to prove her responsibility for the presence of live rounds on set. Instead, Bowles pointed fingers at Baldwin, asserting that the actor’s departure from the script ultimately led to the tragic outcome.

The trial also brought Baldwin under scrutiny, with the prosecution labeling him a “prima donna” and highlighting his lack of adherence to gun safety protocols. However, Baldwin’s criminal trial is scheduled to commence in July.

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One of the jurors, Albert Sanchez, emphasized the significance of neglecting to inspect the weapons thoroughly, stating, “Just handing them over, like ‘here.’ Not checking — that was a big deal.” Sanchez reiterated that the jury reached a consensus on the lack of evidence regarding tampering with evidence.

Following the verdict, First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies expressed the preventable nature of Hutchins’ death and the pursuit of justice for her family. Throughout the trial, eyewitness testimonies, including that of director Joel Souza, provided harrowing accounts of the chaos and confusion that ensued after the fatal shooting.

Dave Halls, the film’s safety coordinator, also testified, expressing remorse for failing to inspect the firearm properly. Halls acknowledged his oversight: “I let a safety check pass.”

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In her closing argument, prosecutor Kari Morrissey argued that Gutierrez Reed’s actions constituted an “astonishing” failure to adhere to industry safety practices. She argued that Gutierrez Reed was responsible for bringing the live rounds to set and that she never properly rattle-tested them to ensure they were dummies. The jury appeared to agree with that assessment.

“She could have paused work, stopped, and cleared it all up, and just never did,” Sanchez said outside the courthouse. “That was her job to check those rounds — those firearms. No one wanted to pay attention or do that sort of stuff and stop work.”

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Defense attorney Jason Bowles countered that a workplace safety investigation blamed management partly for failing to give Gutierrez Reed adequate time to do her job. He also sought to blame Seth Kenney, the weapons supplier who provided blanks and dummy rounds to the production.

As Gutierrez-Reed awaits sentencing, her defense team plans to appeal the verdict, signaling a prolonged legal battle in the aftermath of this tragic incident.

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