July 10 2024, Alec Baldwin trial over ‘Rust’ movie shooting

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'He was an actor, acting': Hear the opening statements from Alec Baldwin's 'Rust' shooting trial
01:23 - Source: CNN

What we covered here

  • The first day of testimony has concluded in the involuntary manslaughter trial of actor Alec Baldwin, nearly three years after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the New Mexico set of the Western film “Rust.”
  • In their opening statements, prosecutors accused the actor of playing “make-believe with a real gun,” while the defense team said the gun was deemed “cold,” meaning it had been checked and was safe.
  • Three officers and a crime scene technician testified Wednesday and the questions focused on the handling of the weapon and ammunition as well as the early investigation on the scene into the incident. The trial will resume Thursday morning.
  • Baldwin has pleaded not guilty and has maintained he did not pull the trigger after he discharged a prop gun. If convicted, the actor could face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
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Our live coverage of the Alec Baldwin trial has concluded for today.

Please scroll through the posts below for details on the testimony heard on Wednesday. We will be back with more live coverage Thursday morning.

Alec Baldwin's trial has wrapped for the day. Here's everything you need to know

Alec Baldwin stands during a break in his involuntary manslaughter trial  in District Court, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Wednesday, July 10.

The involuntary manslaughter trial of actor Alec Baldwin began with opening statements Wednesday — nearly three years after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the New Mexico set of the Western film “Rust.”

If convicted, the actor could face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Here’s a recap of what the prosecution and defense have said, the witnesses we’ve heard from and the footage that’s been used as evidence:

Prosecution: The prosecution accused Baldwin of playing “make-believe with a real gun.”

  • Prosecutor Erlinda Johnson repeatedly said the jury will hear that the gun involved in the “Rust” shooting was in “perfect working order.” The prosecutor told the jury that the company that distributed the gun said the gun in question went through quality control tests.
  • Johnson told jurors that after the shooting of Hutchins, Baldwin began to claim he did not pull the trigger. “The evidence will show, ladies and gentlemen, that’s not possible.”
  • Johnson ended her opening statements by telling jurors the only way they can deliver justice to Hutchins “is a verdict of guilty to involuntary manslaughter.”

Defense: Baldwin’s attorneys argued the actor believed he was given a cold gun at the time of the shooting.

  • Defense attorney Alex Spiro said that while the shooting itself was a tragedy, Baldwin did not commit a crime. “He was an actor, acting. Playing the role of Harland Rust. An actor playing a character can act in ways that are lethal, that just aren’t lethal on a movie set,” Spiro said. He went on to say the people who were responsible to ensure safety on set failed in their duties.
  • Spiro told jurors that “the evidence will show that on a movie set, safety has to happen before the prop is placed into an actor’s hands.” Before Baldwin took the gun for rehearsal, it was deemed a “cold gun,” meaning it had been checked and was safe. He said a “cold gun doesn’t mean no live bullets,” but rather, a cold gun doesn’t even have a fake bullet.
  • Spiro said that the evidence presented during this trial will show that Baldwin is experiencing “shocking grief.” Spiro noted that Baldwin met with Hutchins’ family and called law enforcement to offer to meet with them “over and over again.”

Witnesses:

  • Nicholas Lefleur: He was a deputy at the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department at the time of the shooting and testified that he was the first person to arrive on the scene.
  • Timoteo Benavidez: The retired Sante Fe Police Department lieutenant was the day shift command on the day of the 2021 shooting on the “Rust” set. The prosecution showed the jury the gun used in the shooting. Benavidez identified the gun and testified that armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, handed it to him. He put the gun in the front seat of his car. When he checked the gun, Benavidez testified there were no rounds in it. He said he did not know who else handled the gun between the shooting and when it was handed to him. He also said he didn’t know what happened to the rounds.
  • Joseph Lujan: The detective at Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department testified for the prosecution, giving details oh how the director of “Rust” was treated for his injury.
  • Marissa Poppell, a crime scene technician, said she discovered five suspected live rounds on the set of “Rust” along with one spent casing.

Video evidence:

  • Jurors saw body camera footage of Baldwin being approached by responding officer Nicholas Lefleur, who was the first witness, following the shooting on set. “I was holding the gun, yeah,” Baldwin replies when Lefleur approached him about the incident.
  • Lefleur is seen sitting with Baldwin outside while he is detained, with several crew members standing around talking about what happened.
  • On cross-examination, the defense played the 911 call about the shooting. A woman, who says she is a script supervisor, said “we’ve had two people accidentally shot on a movie set by a prop gun. We need help immediately.”
  • A video showed Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer for “Rust,” starting to get upset and cry while identifying the rounds that were used in the shooting. She is seen in the video saying “sorry” multiple times while breathing hard. Former Lt. Timoteo Benavidez tells her to relax as he tries to calm her down. Gutierrez Reed told Benavidez that the ammunition was used for the gun that was involved in the shooting.

Scenes from the courtroom: Jurors seen passing notes to judge and Baldwin briefly closing his eyes

While witnesses testified today, the jury passed two notes to judge Mary Marlowe Sommer. The contents are unknown and may stay that way.

The day was chock full of activity with the opening statements and testimony from four witnesses, some of which was quite detailed.

At one point, the judge snapped as the prosecutor started reading off a torrent of exhibit numbers during the questioning of crime scene technician Marissa Poppell. “Don’t confuse me this late in the day,” Marlowe Sommer said.

Actor Alec Baldwin also appeared to get tired, closing his eyes and yawning at times.

The trial will resume Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET, according to Marlowe Sommer.

Court has ended for the day. We'll be back tomorrow morning

The involuntary manslaughter trial against Alec Baldwin has ended for the day.

The jury heard opening statements from both sides and the prosecution called several witnesses.

The trial will continue on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET, the judge said.

We’ll be publishing a catchup on the day’s testimony shortly.

Crime scene technician testifies about sending suspected live rounds to the FBI

Kari Morrissey, the lead special prosecutor, has been asking a crime scene technician about the types of ammunition she took from the “Rust” set.

Marissa Poppell, who works for the Santa Fe Sherriff’s Department, said she took dummy rounds and blank ammunition from the set while executing search warrants related to the investigation. She explained to the jury how to tell the difference between them.

Showing photos that Poppell took of items on the set, Morrissey asks her to identify the pieces of ammunition that she suspected were live rounds.

Poppell describes how she sent those to the FBI for further testing. She also says she found a total of six live rounds on set, one of them was a spent shell casing.

Poppell testifies that she also searched an office in Albuquerque that belonged to a props supply company. She tells prosecutors that she found live rounds there.

Other FBI testing: Poppell says she sent the projectile that was removed from “Rust” director Joel Souza’s shoulder to the FBI along with the gun that was involved in the shooting. She says she wanted the gun to go through functionality testing.

She testifies that she was interested in a “drop test” to see if the gun could go off without the trigger being pulled.

5 suspected live rounds found on the set of "Rust" along with 1 spent casing, crime scene technician says

Crime scene technician Marissa Poppell testifies.

Marissa Poppell, the crime scene technician, said she discovered five suspected live rounds on the set of “Rust” along with one spent casing.

“Six in total,” she told the prosecutor.

Jurors shown the gun used in the fatal shooting

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Marissa Poppell, the crime scene technician, is handed the box containing Exhibit #6 – which she identifies as the weapon taken from Lt. Timoteo Benavidez’s vehicle. Though the gun is in front of Poppell, the jury is shown the weapon, which includes parts in separate plastic bags attached to the box with plastic zip ties.

Poppell says she requested the gun be tested by FBI analysts for latent fingerprints, which she describes as fingerprints not visible to the naked eye. Poppell testifies she also requested a firearms-functioning test to ensure it was in “proper working order.”

Poppell testifies that she sent the firearm involved in the shooting to the FBI “intact,” but when she got it back it’s condition had changed.

Prosecution calls crime scene technician

The prosecution has called Marissa Poppell, a crime scene technician for the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department.

Poppell is the prosecution’s fourth witness.

She started by testifying that she collected evidence while executing search warrants related to the investigation.

This included evidence from the initial scene at the church on set and a cart of props that was nearby on set. Later Poppell said she also took evidence from an office in Albuquerque. She said the office was for a props supply company.

Detective testifies that doctors took out projectile from "Rust" director's shoulder

Joseph Lujan, detective at Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department, speaks on the stand in court on Wednesday.

Doctors removed a projectile from Joel Souza’s shoulder when he arrived at the hospital, according to a detective who was there with him. Souza was a director of “Rust” who was injured in the shooting on set in 2021.

Joseph Lujan, a detective at Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department, testified for the prosecution that he was dispatched to meet Souza at the hospital. He said he was there to collect initial details about what happened.

When he was done questioning Souza, Lujan described how doctors removed “a projectile” from his shoulder. Lujan said he kept the object in a plastic container until he gave it to investigators at the sheriff’s office.

Detective Joseph Lujan is next witness called to take the stand

Detective Joseph Lujan with the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office is the next witness called to the stand.

Court is back in session after break

The court is back in session after a break.

The cross-examination of retired Santa Fe Police Department Lt. Timoteo Benavidez is expected to continue.

Catch up on the testimony so far

The prosecution called its first witnesses after both sides delivered opening statements to the jury in Alec Baldwin’s involuntary manslaughter trial.

The trial is centered around a 2021 shooting on the scene of “Rust” that killed Halyna Hutchins, the film’s cinematographer, and injured one other person.

The prosecution has been walking their two law enforcement witnesses through their body-worn camera footage to tell the story of what happened in the aftermath of the shooting.

Here’s what to know:

Nicholas Lefleur

  • He was a deputy at the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department at the time of the shooting and testified that he was the first person to arrive on the scene.
  • Body camera footage shows Lefleur arriving at Bonanza Ranch and quickly requesting a helicopter to transport Hutchins. The footage also shows Baldwin telling Lefleur, “I was holding the gun, yeah.”
  • Lefleur is seen sitting with Baldwin outside while he is detained, with several crew members standing around talking about what happened.
  • On cross-examination, the defense played the 911 call about the shooting. A woman, who says she is a script supervisor, said “we’ve had two people accidentally shot on a movie set by a prop gun. We need help immediately.”

Timoteo Benavidez

  • The prosecution’s second witness was a former Sante Fe Police Department lieutenant who was the day shift command on the day of the 2021 shooting on the “Rust” set.
  • The prosecution showed the jury the gun used in the shooting. Benavidez identified the gun and testified that armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, handed it to him. He put the gun in the front seat of his car.
  • When he checked the gun, Benavidez testified that there were no rounds in it. He said he did not know who else handled the gun between the shooting and when it was handed to him. He also said he didn’t know what happened to the rounds.

Court is taking a short break

Court is taking a short break. Cross-examination will resume at 5:15 p.m. ET.

Benavidez says he doesn't know what happened to rounds of ammunition in the gun

Retired Santa Fe Police Department Lt. Timoteo Benavidez says he does not know what happened to the rounds of ammunition in the weapon used on the movie set “Rust.”

Benavidez says he does not know who else handled the gun before the armorer handed it to him

The gun that Hannah Gutierrez Reed handed to Lt. Timoteo Benavidez on the day of the shooting is seen on a screen in court on Wednesday.

The prosecution asked retired Lt. Timoteo Benavidez if he knew who else handled the gun from the time of the shooting to armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed handing him the firearm.

“I do not, other than Hannah handing it to me,” Benavidez testified.