Witness testimony begins in Alec Baldwin’s Rust shooting trial


Opening statements began Wednesday in the involuntary manslaughter trial of actor Alec Baldwin nearly three years after he fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of the film Rust.

The defense and prosecution began cross-examination of the trial’s first witnesses including law enforcement witnesses.

The first witness cross-examined by defense attorney Alex Spiro was Santa Fe, New Mexico, officer Nicholas Lefleur, whose body camera footage captured several members of the film crew gathered around Baldwin following the incident discussing what happened to Hutchins and the director, Joel Souza.

In the body camera footage that jurors saw on Wednesday, Baldwin was seen talking to Lefleur and admitting that he was “holding the gun.”

Defense attorney Alex Spiro told jurors that Baldwin believed the gun was a “cold gun” — one that was unloaded and checked by safety experts working on the movie. Prosecutor Erlinda Johnson disputed Baldwin’s claim that he did not pull the trigger, accused him of playing “make-believe with a real gun,” and called on the jurors to deliver justice for the deceased cinematographer.

The second witness, retired Lt. Timoteo Benavidez, was one of the officers responding to the incident and secured the crime scene amid “roughly 200 people” on the scene. Benavidez’s body camera footage played in court showed his conversation with film armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was visibly upset and crying while saying “sorry” multiple times. In March, Gutierrez-Reed was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

The third witness called on Wednesday was Joseph Lujan, a detective with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office who testified seeing doctors remove “a projectile” out of Souza’s shoulder at the hospital.

Baldwin was seen in court intently watching the testimony and body camera footage evidence being shown to jurors. His wife, Hilaria, was quietly seated behind him watching the proceedings.

In June, prosecutors had made a court filing claiming that Baldwin “flouted security protocols” and was allegedly engaged in “horseplay with his gun.” The prosecution had also claimed that he had rushed the armorer “to reload and crew members to work at a faster pace.” The document said that Baldwin “was inattentive during the firearms training conducted by Ms. Gutierrez and was distracted by texting/face timing family members and making videos for his family’s enjoyment.”

Actor Alec Baldwin, left, and wife Hilaria Baldwin, holding their child, arrive for jury selection in his involuntary manslaughter trial, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

He arrived in Santa Fe on Tuesday outside the courthouse, making a public scene with his wife and their youngest of seven children.

Journalist Emily Miller said the “publicity stunt” had “backfired badly” when he was seen trying to get his baby to “come to daddy” and his wife later handed off the baby to the nanny. When the child began “screaming and crying” while Baldwin’s wife walked away, the “impression of uncaring parents who used their child as a prop” made a bad impression on the media outside the trial. Some legal experts observed that the theatrics were an attempt to humanize Baldwin but bringing a child to court was “unusual.”

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The Baldwins are in the middle of filming their family’s new TLC reality show, The Baldwins, as he goes through the trial. Sources involved in the show reportedly are planning for the possibility of a conviction of the actor.

Baldwin has pleaded not guilty and his trial is expected to last 10 days. If convicted, the actor could face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.


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