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gunsmith found guilty of manslaughter

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gunsmith found guilty of manslaughter

The gunsmith of the western “Rust”, produced by Alec Baldwin and on the set of which the director of photography was killed by a shot, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday by an American court. Responsible for weapons on this production with a tight budget, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was accused of repeated negligence by prosecutors. She faces up to 18 months in prison. His sentence will not be determined until next month.

The filming of “Rust” turned into drama in October 2021 on a ranch in New Mexico, in the southwest of the United States. Alec Baldwin had pointed a weapon supposed to contain only blank bullets, but a very real projectile had killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

For two weeks, the trial tried to explain how this deadly bullet – one of the many live munitions collected by investigators – could have ended up on the set, in defiance of the safety rules common to the entire cinema industry. .

During the hearings, jurors notably viewed images showing Alec Baldwin handling weapons in a dangerous manner, pointing them at other members of the team, without the gunsmith intervening. “This case concerns constant and endless security failures that resulted in the death of one human being and nearly killed another,” prosecutor Kari Morrissey argued during her closing arguments on Wednesday.

“Endless failures”

According to the prosecutor, the gunsmith was once again negligent on the morning of the tragedy: she was not present when Alec Baldwin was preparing his scene, and had left the twenty weapons used by the production unattended. “She left the weapon in the church” where the tragedy took place, “contrary to all the standards which govern the work of gunsmiths on the sets”, insisted the prosecutor. “As many witnesses have told you, she left guns unattended all the time. October 21 was nothing unusual.”

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Kari Morrissey accused the gunsmith of bringing live ammunition onto the set and failing to carry out the necessary checks to ensure that the ammunition put into the gun was safe: blank bullets produce an easily identifiable clicking sound when shaking the weapon. “If it does not check the dummy ammunition (…) to ensure that they are indeed blank bullets, (…) it is a game of Russian roulette that is engaged every time that an actor carries a weapon”, tackled the prosecutor.

Scapegoat

The prosecution also accused the gunsmith of having concealed cocaine, which she consumed outside of her working hours, after the tragedy. On this point, the jurors found him not guilty. Hannah Gutierrez-Reed served as a scapegoat for a production that neglected security for financial reasons and which made her a “designated culprit,” argued Jason Bowles, one of her lawyers.

According to him, the young woman had no way of knowing that live ammunition had infiltrated the set and believed that production had only obtained blank bullets. “The responsibility lies with production, as in any organization. It starts at the top,” he argued. He also denounced the producers’ eagerness to denounce her to investigators the day after the tragedy. “What the bigwigs want (…) is to continue working to finish the film, to earn money,” he was indignant.

Alec Baldwin, star and producer of the film, is also charged with manslaughter. His trial is expected to take place in July. Filming on “Rust” resumed several months later and ended in Montana, with Halyna Hutchins’ widower, Matthew, serving as executive producer. At the end of 2022, he abandoned the civil proceedings he had initiated against Alec Baldwin at the end of an agreement the amount of which was not disclosed.

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