Court heard of ‘unspeakable tragedy’ before Alec Baldwin trial dismissed

The first day of the trial saw both the prosecution and defence deliver their opening statements

Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial commenced on Wednesday 10 July in New Mexico in front of a packed court that included Alec’s brother Stephen and wife Hilaria.

But after just three days, the trial was dismissed by Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, who found misconduct of police and prosecutors over the withholding of evidence from the defence deemed the trial unfair.

“The late discovery of this evidence during trial has impeded the effective use of evidence in such a way that it has impacted the fundamental fairness of the proceedings,” Sommer told the court.

“If this conduct does not rise to the level of bad faith it certainly comes so near to bad faith to show signs of scorching.”

The first day of the trial saw both the prosecution and defence deliver their opening statements to the 12-person jury, offering vastly different explanations for the events leading up to the tragic death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on-set of the movie Rust in October 2021.

Alec Baldwin in court
US actor Alec Baldwin exits the courtroom (Credit: Getty)

It was alleged that the incident occurred when Alec, 66, was rehearsing an upcoming scene and pointed a prop Colt .45 gun at Halyna. The weapon fired a single bullet, killing her and injuring director, Joel Souza.

The 30 Rock star has pleaded not guilty and maintains he never pulled the gun’s trigger.

The defence of Alec Baldwin

The defence’s opening statement portrayed the movie star as an actor who was simply doing his job.

“This was an unspeakable tragedy, but Alec Baldwin committed no crime,” said defence attorney Alex Spiro. “He was an actor, acting.”

The defence continued: “On this movie set there were people responsible for ensuring the safety of the set and the firearm. Those people failed in their duties.”

Mr Spiro also touched on a key element of the defence’s argument, saying: “The most critical issue in this case is how a real bullet got onto a movie set…and you will hear no evidence, not one word that Alec Baldwin had anything to do with that real bullet being brought onto that set.”

Alec baldwin and wife
US actor Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria Baldwin leave the courthouse (Credit: Getty)

What the prosecution said

Prosecutor Erlinda Johnson’s opening statement argued that Alec, who was both the star and producer of the western movie, exhibited flagrant disregard for gun safety on a film set that had a small budget and inexperienced crew.

Ms Johnson claimed: “When someone plays make believe with a real gun in a real-life workplace and… violates the cardinal rules of firearm safety, people’s lives are in danger.”

The prosecutor continued: “And while it was a movie set, it was a real-life workplace for many people. But you will hear, this workplace was on a tight budget. And you will learn that some of the people who were hired to work at this workplace were very inexperienced.”

Another key issue at trial will be Alec’s claim that he didn’t pull the trigger when the revolver fired, which the prosecution addressed head-on in their opening statement.

Ms Johnson plainly told the jury that the gun “worked perfectly fine as it was designed” and had been extensively examined by FBI tests.

“He pointed the gun at another human being, cocked the gun and pulled that trigger in reckless disregard for Ms Hutchins’ safety,” the lawyer alleged.

Halyna Hutchins
Halyna Hutchins (Credit: Getty)

The defence also broached the issue in their opening statement, explaining that the FBI destroyed the gun during their tests, thus preventing it from being further analysed by the defence.

After the opening statements, the prosecution called on their first witness, Officer Nicholas LeFleur who was the first responder at the scene. The officer’s body camera footage was shown in court, detailing the chaotic aftermath of the shooting.

This trial came after other legal findings were made against two crew members also deemed responsible for the tragic on-set incident.

Armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter earlier this year and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Assistant director and safety co-ordinator David Halls admitted to his negligence and accepted a plea deal of a six-month suspended sentence.

Judge Sommer ruled that the case cannot return to court, meaning Baldwin won’t face an appeal.

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