Prosecutors say ‘Rust’ armorer was ‘negligent’ and ‘careless’ during closing argument

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(SANTA FE, N.M.) — Prosecutors told jurors that “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez “repeatedly” failed to maintain proper firearm safety and that her negligence led to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, while the defense countered that the 26-year-old is a “convenient scapegoat” during closing arguments in her involuntary manslaughter trial on Wednesday.

During the two-week trial in Santa Fe, New Mexico, prosecutors presented evidence they said shows Gutierrez was responsible for bringing six live rounds onto the set — and did not discover them for 12 days before the deadly shooting by failing to perform industry standard safety practices.

Actor Alec Baldwin was practicing a cross-draw in a church on the set of the Western film on Oct. 21, 2021, when the Colt .45 revolver fired a live round, striking Hutchins and director Joel Souza, who suffered a non-life-threatening injury.

“This is not a case where Hannah Gutierrez made one mistake, and that one mistake was accidental — putting a live round into that gun,” prosecutor Kari Morrissey told jurors during her closing argument. “This case is about constant, neverending, safety failures that resulted in the death of a human being and nearly killed another.”

Morrissey told jurors Gutierrez failed to maintain firearms safety on the set, “making a fatal accident willful and foreseeable.”

She showed jurors stills of footage from the set of actors pointing firearms at other crew members, including a minor actor, as well as Gutierrez pointing one at her own face. She also showed photographs of what experts determined to be live rounds in holsters and containers on the set as early as Oct. 10, 2021.

Morrissey said that meant Gutierrez was not checking dummy rounds to ensure they were not live rounds — such as by shaking them — and that there was a game of “Russian roulette” every time an actor had a gun loaded with dummies. She also said they have “mountains of circumstantial evidence” that Gutierrez brought the live rounds onto the set.

“I’m not telling you Hannah Gutierrez intended to bring live rounds on set,” Morrissey said. “I’m saying she was negligent, she was careless, she was thoughtless.”

Hutchins died from loss of blood and a lethal wound to her lung, Morrissey said.

“The astonishing lack of diligence with regard to gun safety is without question a significant cause of the death of Halyna Hutchins,” she said.

Defense attorney Jason Bowles said during his closing argument there was a rush to judgment and that detectives didn’t conduct a thorough investigation of the shooting. Gutierrez was made a “convenient fall person,” he said. He also argued that she “did not do something willfully” because she did not know there was a live round in the revolver.

Morrissey responded that she agreed that Gutierrez didn’t know there was a live round on set, and that if she did know, she would have been charged with second-degree murder, not involuntary manslaughter.

Morrissey addressed the defense theory presented during the trial that Seth Kenney, the owner of PDQ Arm & Prop who was the weapons supplier for “Rust,” was the source of the live rounds, saying the live rounds found in his store did not match the ones found on set.

“Any argument that Seth Kenney is the source of the live rounds is absolutely dishonest,” she said.

During his closing argument, Bowles said that a props manager threw out dummy rounds following the shooting that were not recovered, and that a search of Kenney’s business wasn’t conducted until a month after the shooting.

“If you don’t have all the evidence you can’t rule out all that reasonable doubt,” he said.

Morrissey also pushed back against the defense’s citation during the trial of the New Mexico Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s investigation into the shooting, which found that the management “demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety,” saying the agency’s job was to address the actions of employers, not employees.

Bowles argued Wednesday that the report found that the management was responsible for the safety on the set.

Both Gutierrez and Baldwin have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death. His trial is scheduled to start in July.

Morrissey addressed Baldwin’s role in the shooting during her closing argument.

“Alec Baldwin’s conduct and his lack of gun safety inside that church on that day is something that he’s going to have to answer for,” she told the jurors. “Not with you and not today.”

Bowles also noted Baldwin’s actions on set. During his closing argument, Bowles showed jurors a take from the filming of “Rust” that showed Baldwin firing a gun after “cut” was called, saying the actor “went off script.”

He also argued that Baldwin went off script on the day of the shooting by pointing the gun.

“Baldwin would go off script multiple times and Oct. 21 — that was one of those days,” Bowles said. “Baldwin goes off script and that isn’t something that Miss Gutierrez-Reed foresaw that was going to happen.”

In her response, Morrissey said Gutierrez knew Baldwin went off script and “didn’t do anything about it, even though it was her job.”

Gutierrez has additionally been charged with tampering with evidence, with prosecutors alleging she handed off a small bag of cocaine at her hotel on the day of the shooting after her interview with law enforcement.

Morrissey told jurors that Gutierrez handed off the bag to the crew member, Rebecca Smith, after Smith informed her that Hutchins had died. Smith testified during the trial that she is a former addict and believed it to be cocaine and threw the bag out immediately.

Prosecutors rested their case on Monday after calling nearly 30 witnesses. The defense rested on Wednesday after presenting five witnesses. Gutierrez did not testify in her own defense.

A lesser, misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm is included in the first count of involuntary manslaughter. The jurors will only deliberate on the negligent use of a firearm charge if they find Gutierrez not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer told the court Wednesday.

There are four possible verdicts in the first count, the judge said: guilty of involuntary manslaughter, not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, guilty of negligent use of a firearm or not guilty of negligent use of a firearm.

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