'Rust' armourer trial starts Thursday, jury sworn in

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The trial of "Rust" chief weapons handler Hannah Gutierrez over the death of the film’s cinematographer will start on Thursday, in a case likely to shape actor Alec Baldwin’s defence of his role in Hollywood's first on-set shooting fatality in nearly 30 years.

Rising-star cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died in 2021 after Gutierrez mistakenly loaded a live round into a reproduction Colt .45 revolver that Baldwin was rehearsing with on a movie set outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Gutierrez and Baldwin both face a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

The revolver Baldwin was holding fired the round that killed Hutchins. He said he cocked the gun but did not pull the trigger. Baldwin's trial date has not been set.

Jurors were sworn in late Wednesday afternoon by District Court Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer at a court in downtown Santa Fe where the trial will take place.

Of the 12 jurors selected, seven are male and five are female. Four alternate jurors are male, court spokesman Barry Massey said.

In opening statements on Thursday, New Mexico state prosecutors are expected to tell jurors the 27-year-old Gutierrez showed reckless disregard for safety by allegedly bringing live rounds on set - an act strictly forbidden - and by using drugs like cocaine and marijuana that impaired her ability to do a job crucial to safety on set.

Should a jury believe that Gutierrez, who trained with her stepfather, famed movie armorer Thell Reed, showed criminal negligence, she could be convicted of the involuntary manslaughter charge, as well as an evidence tampering charge alleging she passed a bag of cocaine to a crew member after the shooting to prevent police finding it.

Each charge carries up to 18 months imprisonment.

"If the prosecution can draw a nexus between alcohol and drug use, or the effects of the drugs, while she was at work maintaining the weaponry, she's in a lot of trouble," said University of New Mexico law professor Joshua Kastenberg.

Her lawyers say there is no evidence drugs impaired Gutierrez's work. She was not tested for drugs after the shooting.

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